Stained Glass

Sharon Chatwell, mother of senior Anna Chatwell, wrote this article about the class of 2012's class gift. The article originally appeared in Side by Side, a ministry of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

Our lives may be crushed and broken, but God is the Master Artisan of Creation…

Our youngest daughter, Anna, was recently commissioned, by the members of her high school graduating class, to create a set of stained glass windows as a school gift from the Class of 2012. The stained glass will augment the windows over the east entrance at Lincoln Lutheran and the project is to be completed by this coming May. Of course, all of this has caused a lot of excitement at our house!

Anna has been taking courses in stained glass and has become quite proficient at it. She is both creative and meticulous, and her artistic bent has led her into a decision to study Design in college. However, it’s still amazing to me that her peers actually believe she can do this… especially since she’s never worked on a project of this scope. I suppose they have faith in her because, over the years (since Kindergarten for many of them) they have gotten to know Anna, and by now they believe she can do just about anything she puts her mind to!

What fun! And we get to watch… up close, it seems… as much of the work is scheduled to take place in our basement!

I don’t know how much you know about creating stained glass, but I can tell you what I have learned. First you start with what seems like a perfectly good pane of glass… and then you break it! That’s right… the glass has to be cut or broken into pieces before the artisan fashions them into intricate and beautiful designs.

Anna’s stained glass windows will depict a Cedar of Lebanon. These great trees were used in biblical times to create structures such as The Temple in Jerusalem and King Solomon’s Palace. Throughout the Bible they are used as references of great strength and stability. As the theme for her windows, Anna has chosen the verses in Psalms 92:12-15:

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

These words will remind all those, who go in and out the doors of the school, of God’s promises.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about stained glass. And it occurs to me that our lives are similar to it. All of us have things that crush and break us, just like the glass is broken. Our sins can do this, but also the circumstances which occur in our lives, and in the lives of those around us, can add to the broken and jagged jumble. As a result, our lives seem to lie in pieces. We are hopeless and helpless to fix them, or even to restore them to a semblance of order. What to do?

The answer is to give all of the pieces to God. As Christians, we must routinely look around us, see the broken pieces of our lives, and determine in our hearts to let Jesus take them and use them. If we are not yet Christians, we have yet to learn that as soon as we give our lives to Jesus, and surrender to Him as our Lord and Savior, something wonderful begins to happen. God, the Master Artisan of Creation, begins to pick up the broken pieces of our lives, even the most fragile and deadly ones, and starts to create something new and wonderful with them.

A beautiful new design begins to take shape under His skillful hands. He takes a bit of glass from here and another piece from there, and by His grace, begins to bring them all together to form a remarkable picture of redemption and restoration in our lives. It is amazing to me that He can use things that previously broke and crushed me to become an intricate part of my new life in Him. And to my delight, these things end up glorifying Him as a beautiful new picture comes into view.

God has shown me that some of the things I learned the hard way can be shared with others to try and warn them from doing the same. Previous disasters, which had awful consequences in my life, now stand as firm reminders to myself and others that God’s laws are both righteous and good, and that we should always honor them. Pain, which I bore in silence in the past, can finally be released as the light of God’s glory illuminates it. Miraculously, it too has become an integral part of the beautiful mosaic He is creating in my life.

These cannot be new ideas. I am sure that others have had these thoughts before. Perhaps this is part of the reason that stained glass windows are so well loved in our churches. Maybe they remind us of the broken pieces of our lives which are bound up by God Himself, who never wastes anything, and who will use even the crushing events of our past to help fashion a beautiful new future for us.

It may seem difficult for us to believe that God can accomplish something this big, especially if we have not yet seen Him do something of this magnitude. But the more we get to know God, the easier it will be for us to have faith that He can accomplish anything, even something of this scope And the great part is that we get to watch… up close, in fact… as the work is done on our very lives!

All honor, glory, and praise to the LORD God, Creator of the universe, and to His One and Only Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. May He continue to use all the broken pieces of our lives to create something beautiful which glorifies His name. Amen.

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