By Miriam Rossow
The first stained glass I created was during my Jr. High years, a simple design of a flower that used big pieces of glass. As Jr. High students working with glass for the first time we did not have the skill set to create a very intricate design. (Or at least I didn’t.)
The second time I had the opportunity to create a stained glass window I was a young adult in my first years of teaching. Although I did not have any more experience, I decided I would try something slightly more complicated. Really, the design was still very simple: I used only rectangles and squares, and therefore only straight cuts. I made it slightly more complicated by using more colors and making the pieces smaller, which meant the glass was more fragile and delicate to handle.
Creating a stained glass window is a slow process. You begin with a design, which involves drawing and coloring what you are hoping to create. Once you have chosen your colors and shapes on paper, you need to choose the correct glass for both color and texture. The different textures will give you a different look and reflect the sun in different ways.
When you have chosen the right glass, you need to enlarge your design to a size which allows you to lay a piece of glass over the design and begin the cutting process. Once the glass pieces are all cut, you lay them together and use a soldering iron to secure the joints with lead. (This is, of course, a very quick explanation of a tedious and careful process.)
As the artist, you have a picture in your head. You can see what the end result is going to be, and make changes or move colors in order to get the result you want.
I recently had the opportunity to color a very intricate stained glass window page of visual art. The page comes from Ponder Anew: A Hymn Journal of Trust and Confidence from Next Step Press and Visual Faith Ministry. The design reminded me of the two large stained glass windows from the sanctuary of the church where I have been serving as Communications Director for the last year. These two windows share God’s great love by depicting images of events in the life of Jesus. They picture the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
The window I was coloring in my Ponder Anew book also depicted images of Jesus’ life. The window was made up of six smaller panes, each holding a picture from Jesus life and symbols of God’s continued love for us. Each picture had its own pane of individual pieces that made up the image. Behind the picture were squares and rectangles creating a window within the window, and behind that were triangles and parallelograms making up a bigger window pane. Around all of those panes and images was a border of smaller rectangles. (As I said it was intricate; and certainly not something I would try making into an actual stained glass window!)
As I colored, I thought about all of the decisions that we make in our lives each day. Each of those decisions connects with another decision–a decision by us, our family, or another person that we may or may not even know. I suppose that is why decisions feel so big and daunting: we realize our decisions affect the lives of other people, but we can’t always see the big picture to know how they connect.
When I make a decision in my life, I don’t always know how that will affect other people. We make decisions with the best information we have; and sometimes the information we have feels like it is just the color of the piece of glass next to us. We can’t always see how the decision we make fits into the design as a whole.
I am thankful that God is the artist of my picture. I don’t have to know how each decision affects the next one. I can be confident that as I make decisions based on the best information in front of me, even if the information is limited to what I can see right next to me, that the Spirit of Jesus will take those decisions and make them work to God’s glory and to the good of the people around me. Jesus will use my decisions to make His beautiful picture.
I am not the artist, God is the artist. God sees the whole picture; and God sees how each decision, color or shape, connects to and affects those around it. God is capable and willing to move shapes or choose a different color to get the end result that is the most beautiful picture for each of us. And my decisions matter to the overall design. The color scheme makes a difference and there are colors that go better next to each other. Even as the colors matter, the Artist is in control and can move and make changes as He sees necessary.
So I live in the grace of knowing that as I make decisions, I can do so with the knowledge that Jesus is working in and through those decisions for me and those around me to create a beautiful picture. God does not just leave my decisions up to me at random. The Holy Spirit shows me the parts of the picture that help me make the decision. I am not required to make the exact right decision. I am asked to look at the colors and the part of the picture that I can see and make the decision that seems to fit best. And when I have ‘messed up’ or made a ‘wrong’ decision, Jesus can, and will use even that ‘mistake’ for His glory in His picture!
I was recently offered a position to teach 5th-8th grade Language Arts and 5th grade homeroom at the school my children have attended since we moved to Michigan 7 years ago. Our family has roots at that school. As Justin and I prayed and tried to make a decision about this job offer, I saw just enough of the picture to see that this was the next right decision for us.
Of course, that decision affects other people. My kids will have their mom in the same building (if Covid allows it!), and I’ll even have my 8th-grader in class! I leave people I have come to care about over the last year, people who were willing to let me help them share Jesus with their community and with each other through their stories of faith, hope, and love in Jesus. That makes me sad.
And I am also excited to see how this decision will compliment the colors around it. Who will be the next piece in the picture at my former congregation? How will I connect with the children and families I get to serve next year? How will my new congregation respond to challenges of educating in an ongoing Covid outbreak? How will new families choose to connect (or not connect) with me and with my family? How will my family make this adjustment after so many big adjustments in our recent past? What decisions will I need to make that I can’t even imagine yet?
I am excited to take this next step. And I am so thankful that I don’t have to be in charge of the overall design! Each decision is difficult enough on its own. I’ll do my best to make a decision that makes sense from what I can see of the design. And I look forward to seeing how God will work and move through these decisions!