“I Wish I May. I Wish I Might.”
- February 1, 2022
- Posted by: Carolyn Mahal
- Category: Devotions
He was 15 years old, away at a boarding school. Missing home. Still trying to find his way. He’d struggled in school, and as the frustration mounted, his behavior worsened. His parents only wanted the best for him… and only expected the best. The best, however, was often tough to come by.
On June 12, 1890, his mother sent her beloved teenaged boy a letter through the mail. It wasn’t pleasant: Dearest (Son)… I have much to say to you, I’m afraid not of a pleasant nature. You know darling how I hate to find fault with you, but I can’t help myself… Your report which I enclose is as you will see a very bad one.
You work in such a fitful inharmonious way, that you are bound to come out last—look at your place in the form! Your father & I are both more disappointed than we can say, that you are not able to go up for your preliminary exam: I daresay you have 1000 excuses for not doing so—but there the fact remains… you make me very unhappy…
My only consolation is that your conduct is good and you are an affectionate son—but your work is an insult to your intelligence. If you would only trace out a plan of action for yourself & carry it out & be determined to do so—I am sure you could accomplish anything you wished.
It is that thoughtlessness of yours which is your greatest enemy … I will say no more now—but you are old enough to see how serious this is to you—& how the next year or two & the use you make of them, will affect your whole life—stop & think it out for yourself… before it is too late. You know dearest boy that I will always help you all I can.
You’re loving but distressed, Mother.
So, just to be clear: Send your child away from home… because of your dreams for his life, not his. Push him far beyond his boundaries. Have absolutely no idea how he is handling himself from one day to the next. And when he’s down on himself for disappointing you, kick him in the pants. Did I get that right?
As we might expect, that pressure turned this young man’s life upside down. His parents never heard from him again, he dropped out of school, struggled with drugs, drifted through life, spent more time in jail than out of it.
Just as we might have expected… because… this is 2022. But this letter from a mother to her son wasn’t written in 2022. It was penned in 1890. And this note from Jennie Churchill to her 15-year-old old Winston was exactly what he needed to hear through a very dark time of his life.
Winston Churchill didn’t drop out of school. No, on his third and final attempt, he passed his preliminary exam to the Royal Military Academy… and the rest—as they say—is history.
Philippians 2:15 is a beautiful verse. I especially like the NIV translation: “Shine like stars in the world”. It’s a verse that—if taken by its lonesome—might be a favorite of anyone who doesn’t really know the Bible. I mean… who doesn’t want to be a star?
It reminds me of that poll. 13-17 year-olds in this country were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. For generations, the answers were doctor, lawyer, firefighter, police officer, teacher, or marine biologist. No longer. The #1 answer three years ago was this: I want to be famous. The #1 answer today: I want to be YouTuber (pretty much the same answer).
Who doesn’t want to be a star? The context of this amazing verse (Philippians 2:15) is found in verse 5: Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ… who emptied Himself… taking the form of a servant… and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. That’s how you shine. That’s how you become a star to what St. Paul describes as “a crooked and twisted generation”. This is how we shine. And… it should never come easily.
Even in the universe.
On a dark and clear night, you look up into that midnight sky and see beautiful and bright stars, some so brilliant they cast shadows on the ground. We’ll gaze, and smile and sing lullabies about such moments. Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.
Well… I’ll tell you what they are. They are giant, explosive balls of nuclear fusion turning hydrogen atoms into helium atoms. This immense volatility creates huge amounts of radiation. Radiation creates energy. Energy creates light.
And the cradlesong “twinkling” we sing about is actually created by air turbulence in the earth’s atmosphere that causes the steady light of a star to bend a thousand times over before your eye can actually see the light… so that it appears to twinkle.
I want to shine like a star. Who doesn’t? But on my way to having an attitude like Jesus, let’s start with the premise that shining will not be easy.
Jesus asks for my cares (1 Pt 5:7) and my worries, and I want to give them to Him, but sometimes I hold on to them, or fret over them… and my light fades. Jesus asks me to seek the Kingdom of God first (Mt 6:33), and leave “all these other things” to Him, but far too often I dwell more on all these “other things” first, while the Kingdom waits… and my light fades.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Co 9:7). We have all been so blessed, many of us with a vast experience in the Lord providing all that we need and so much more, but how often are we less than cheerful in giving? And my light fades.
Jesus asks, we respond. He invites, we go. He needs, we give. This is the volatile and combustible lifelong struggle of letting our light shine.
We will wrestle with our own foolishness, our scuffles, our disorders, or simply standing before our own fears, our heartaches, or addictions. We will succumb to the trappings of this world. We will rejoice in the Lord with our whole hearts, and we fall flat on our spiritual faces. We will stand and we will stagger. We will gladly run into His everlasting arms, and we will run and hid from His beautiful face.
In our desire to fashion our attitudes like that of Christ Jesus, we must realize how hard it is to shine as brightly as we ought.
As we might expect, we will fail. No matter how hard we try, we can never reach the heights of working hard enough or shining bright enough to have the same attitude as that of Jesus to a twisted world. And as we might expect, that pressure has broken many a Christian. Frustrated, alone, despairing, and destitute… children of God have turned their lives upside down in the relentless pursuit to be a star. They have abandoned their faith.
Just as we might have expected.
But here’s the thing… the shine is not yours. It’s the Lord’s. He works through the volatility of your pain. He summons beauty and calm and peace through the chaos and combustibility of life. His light can even shine through us as it bends through the crooked and twisted turns in this generation, so that it not only shines… it twinkles.
So be strong, be fierce, keep fighting, keep burning, and to quote Luther- “sin boldly”, so that Christ might shine all the more.
Devotion by Rev. D. Lee Andrzejewski
Head Pastor, Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Detroit, MI and member of the LSEM Board of Trustees