Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

The Purpose of the Light

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A Physics Lesson

In high school I took 4 different physics classes. I loved learning how the world works.

One of my favorite projects was predicting where a marble would land after rolling down an incline. The calculations worked like magic.

After plugging the necessary numbers into the specific formulas, we would place a bucket on the floor. Roll a marble down an incline. And then watch the marble land in the bucket on the first try every time. Incredible.

Change the height. Change the marble. Plug in the new numbers, and it worked. Again.

Another thing I learned about in physics was light.

You can’t smell, touch, or see light directly. It is energy. Electromagnetic radiation.

When the electromagnetic radiation collides with an object, a portion of the light is reflected back towards your eyes. When this reflected portion collides with your retina, you see the object. You never see the light traveling through space. Only how the light changes after it hits something and reflects.

The purpose of light is to reveal the properties of the objects it collides with.

Seeing the Beauty of the World

Sometimes when this phenomena of reflected electromagnetic radiation hits our retinas, something even more amazing happens.

Sometimes the light reflects beauty.

photo by Brandon Christopher Warren (creative commons)

Yes, there are physical and chemical processes at play here. The red rose is red because it reflects only the light waves that our eyes interpret as red. The diamond sparkles because when all of the light is reflected, but it refracted into all of the wavelengths. But even more happens than can be explained by science.

I know because sometimes the light falls on the smile of one of my children and a beauty is reflected that I cannot describe with words.

As if that wasn’t enough, the beauty doesn’t stop there. Our sensory cortex sends a signal to another portion of our brain and we feel something.

The light finds the beauty and sends portions of itself back at you so that you can see it. And feel it. And love it.

The beauty exists independent of light, but it is the light that illuminates beauty for our eyes to see and then for our hearts to enjoy.

What it Means to be the Light of the World

Chances are, that if you have ever been near a church, you are aware that Jesus tells his followers that they are the light of the world.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV)

My experience is that most preachers emphasize the intensity of that light. They want your light to shine brightly. To be a high wattage light bulb so that the light will fill the darkness.

But maybe brightness isn’t the right emphasis. If all we do is give others images in black and gray and white, we have not done enough. Light reflects beauty. Light finds what is good and brings it out for others to enjoy.

The Message translates this passage differently.

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.

God’s fingerprints are to be found everywhere. In the rose. The diamond. In my children.

Everyone is made in his image. His being is woven into our DNA. There is beauty in everyone.

Our job it to people reflect that beauty.

When we seek to be the light of the world, we must shine brightly. But we must also find beauty in what we shine on. We need to bring out the best in others. We need to see their intrinsic value and beauty.

Do you shine brightly? Do you bring out the God-colors of the world?

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About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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21 Replies

  1. Great question. Great post. 😉


    Jermey – really enjoyed this post! I agree, that the brightness is not really about being a high wattage bulb; but rather, to reflect the light in everyday, ordinary ways. Thanks for sharing and for bringing to “light” this passage in Matthew. God bless!

  3. I like that. “Everyday ordinary ways.”

  4. It is good. I struggle with. I can be very critical which does not reflect beauty.

  5. This is one of the best descriptions of Light of Jesus Christ I’ve ever read. It’s as if the words reflected the Light back to me in many GOD-colors. Beautiful!

  6. Thanks, Dort. The God colors are every where and it is a gift to us that we can help them shine.

  7. Jeremy thanks for the gentle reminder of our greater purpose

  8. I am always in need of such a reminder. I struggle not paying attention to the distrations.

  9. Peter Heath

    fa’afetai tele Jeremy. That’s just the reminder I needed this morning 🙂

  10. Wow. I got a few waves of chills reading this.

  11. Like the ones you get when you pee?

  12. I had to look the phrase up to know what it means. Cool.

  13. Yes. P-waves.

    And speaking of physics, P-waves are right in between x-rays and gamma rays.

  14. Somewhere between medicinal and mutating. Interesting.

  15. Ha! The aliteration makes it even better.

  16. SLWassets

    Well done, sir. Some of the best non-fiction writing I’ve seen in years. In a word you’ll appreciate: elegant. Keep up the good work.

  17. Thanks for the kind words.

  18. Thomas Washington

    This is well-worth sharing, thank you for sharing this light, no pun intended. Thank you for your dedication as a surgeon as well.

  19. John mcavoy

    I knew there was more to light then what I realized. Very good! Shine on and allow the light to bring out the beauty in those around us.

  20. jen jones

    Great answer….I agree we do focus on the brightness of our light…but you added a different perspective…beauty..Thanks

  21. Holmes

    Hi Jeremy, I was just reading through Matthew 6:22-23, and I was asking myself some questions about this passage and after reading through you wonderful work I kind of understand the spirit of the scripture. Thanks again.

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