Monday, July 13, 2015

Rocks and the Stained Glass Windows of Our Faith

A friend once wrote the following, which touched me deeply when I read it.  I have attended two LDS churches that had stained glass windows: Cambridge, MA and Quincy, IL.  I hope what my friend wrote helps someone, somehow, who reads it here:

Yesterday was an upending day. A day I am now grateful for. In the hours of reflection I have come to many clearer thoughts than I held before. I have learned a lot about myself and about others. I have come to some conclusions, one of those revolves around the image of stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows were common adornments in churches, especially cathedrals, but smaller ones had them, too. Even LDS churches have had them. The windows were depictions of sacred events or individuals. As the light fell through them they illuminated the surroundings and drew parishioners eyes to them. They were meant to uplift, to teach, to validate.

Stained glass windows don't exist in many churches any more. Many are not the works they once were. I miss them. But I realized as members of this complex religion, everyone of us carries a stained glass window in our hearts. We each have things that this religion symbolizes to us. We imagine, desire, cling to, and create a theology that answers our yearning. For one person it's the idea of a prophet - a living Moses or Elias. For another it's the links of eternity, keeping all that you cherish bound together. Still others love the covenant rituals performed. For many it's a combination of pieces.

Week by week, day by day, experience by experience we each select the pieces and colors we desire in our window. The process of creating the window is so subtle we don't even notice we are making it. But it means everything to us. Each week as we head to church to worship, we hang up our personal window. It encompasses us. I hear it in people's testimony - or their monthly confession, which ever it is that Sunday. I hear it in their lessons. They teach what they cling to or what rings true to them.

The windows are sacred. Each of us think we all have the same window, but we don't. If we listen and observe carefully they are all different. The reason we think they are the same is because we use the same words in describing them - glass, color, etching - but the product is individual.

Yesterday I threw a rock through some one's window. It was thoughtless. I was more concerned about my window, because mine looks different than hers. Together we will pick up the broken glass of our mutually shattered windows. We will each carefully graft back the images we see.

From now on, though, I will try to remember that the most beautiful edifices are the buildings with multiple different stained glass windows. And I will try hard not to put any rocks through others, because there are already too many broken stained glass windows to begin with.

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