An excerpt from Rich and Reneé Stearns’ new devotional book, “He Walks Among Us: Encounters with Christ in a Broken World.”
When I joined a sorority in college, I was assigned a “big sister.” One of Peggy’s responsibilities was to share an inspirational saying that would remind me what was important about being a sorority sister. So at my initiation ceremony, she presented me with a piece of paper on which Colossians 3:1–4 was inscribed.
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.—Colosians 3:2-3
Other new members received excerpts from presidential speeches, witty remarks from celebrities, or inspirational thoughts from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, but I received life-giving wisdom from the apostle Paul, the essence of which was: Don’t let the values and messages of this present world define you; don’t allow the culture in which you’re immersed to distract you. No matter what is happening around you, keep your eyes on Jesus. Orient your heart and mind toward him who died for you. So many times during the course of my college career, I was grateful that I had committed these verses to memory.
Quiquijana, a Quechua village high in the Andes Mountains of Peru, is a long way from my old sorority house. But it was there that I met a little girl who, for me, captured the essence of Paul’s message to the Colossians. Part of the welcoming committee, 7-year-old Luz Marina brought me flowers and held my hand. But as others toured the village, we stopped so she could sing a song.
A fire in her home had left her face badly disfigured, she walked with a limp, and she couldn’t raise her arm above her head because of scar tissue. But when she opened her mouth to sing, Luz Marina was transformed; her physical limitations seemed to disappear. She was no longer a burn victim, a scarred child with a limp. As if she simply put aside the injuries that could otherwise have defined her, her mind and her heart seemed to transcend her small, broken body as she sang.
Each one of us is uniquely made by God, but circumstances sometimes conspire to make us feel less than what God intended. It is then that we most need Paul’s reminder to keep our hearts and minds focused on the truth that is key to our identity: As followers of Christ, we have been raised with him, and as we turn our hearts and minds heavenward, those earthly things that seek to define us — the situation we find ourselves in, the values and opinions of others — lose their power.
In 1922, Helen Lemmel wrote one of my favorite hymns. The chorus begins, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / Look full in his wonderful face. / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, / In the light of his glory and grace.” If only for a moment, singing enabled Luz Marina to rise above her circumstances. How much more should the knowledge that our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” enable us to rise above our circumstances and let God’s love define us.
“He Walks Among Us” is available from Thomas Nelson publishers. The Stearns’ have also written a children’s Bible storybook, “God’s Love For You: Sharing His Heart with Children Around the World.”
Reneé Stearns, an attorney, speaker, and mother of five, lives in the Seattle area. With her husband, Rich, Reneé has traveled the world and met mothers, fathers, and children with incredible stories of faith and joy. Rich and Reneé share many of these stories in their 90-day devotional book featuring spiritual lessons about true identity in Christ, unshakeable hope, and remaining faithful in the face of obstacles. Each entry is enhanced with stunning photography by award-winning World Vision photographer Jon Warren.