Before you wonder, I love the people in my major. I really do. But if you were to listen to conversations between professional writing majors, you’d probably be slightly confused almost all the time. We care about strange things that no one else does, like the Oxford comma, whether it’s legitimate for Ted Dekker to make a trilogy with four books, and the fact that a stained glass window can be a metaphor for anything.
Happens to wonder what that means? If so, try a little exercise to stretch your creativity. Picture a stained glass window. Now go through a list of abstract concepts and try to use the window as a metaphor. It will almost always work. We’ve come up with ways that it could symbolize suffering, the Trinity, deception, stress, and the Biblical canon. But there’s one picture that especially sticks in my mind, which I’ll be talking about tonight.
(Please bear with me for a second. Eventually, it will all make sense to what this has to do with death and dying. I didn’t misname the blog post – the connection just takes a little time to find.)
The picture I get when I think of a stained glass window is a mosaic of colorful glass squares put together to form a beautiful scene. Each individual shard contributes to a greater whole. Each is unique in shape and color. Some have a more significant part than others, either because of how large they are or where they have been placed in the overall picture.
Of all the metaphors about stained glass windows, I like this one the best. Some people think that when they get to heaven, their life will be like a movie played back for them to see. I think mine is going to be a giant stained glass window, with God as the light shining through bits of glass that represent the people who made an impact on my life. I’ll look at each and remember a name: “Hey look, it’s Ashley. I bet that one’s David. That’s right…I almost forgot about Mary!”
In light of eternity, I want to be a part of as many people’s mosaics as I can. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to go on some crazy social spree and meet a ton of people. Most mere acquaintances aren’t a part of my stained glass window, except for the people whose one overheard comment or random act of kindness stuck in my memory. The people who are there will be the ones who took the time to listen, who gave me an example to look up to, who were worshipping God with me even though they couldn’t speak English.
Look at your life (and, because of this, your death at the end of life) not as a race or some kind of competition, not as a bucket list of things to be done, but as a chance to bring tiny, seemingly insignificant shards of yourself into the lives of others. We don’t always get to see what that looks like, not here. But God is piecing everything together in heaven, and we might just find halls full of stained glass windows when we get there.
Behind most theories about life and death, from business books to sad country songs about a guy who got cancer, is the idea that you have to get in as much in as you possibly can, living without regrets. I don’t know about you, but I’ve realized that because people are so important, my only regrets will probably be tied to people: things I should have said but didn’t, judgments I made too soon, relationships that were more about me than the other person. That’s why I like to think about the stained glass windows and realize that, even though I may see all my mistakes and wonder if I’m making a difference at all in the lives of others, God is the master stained glass artist. He knows how the bits of me that I give away will fit into other’s mosaics, and He’s taking my window and crafting it.