My mother-in-law (AKA Mrs. Cleanhouse) has always had an obsession with washing windows. Smudges and fingerprints I never would have noticed, she attacked with more than a vengeance—a passion. No wonder her solarium grew lush and verdant. The secret lay in keeping those huge windows clean.
Last week I talked of stained clothes, today it’s stories of stained glass. Recently we flanked our new front door with a pair of sidelights, and I had envisioned the style and color of glass we’d install in the tiny windows. An imitation Tiffany inset? Beveled panels? Colored “cathedral” glass, like we arranged in cross shapes for the chapel back in Linares days?
BUT as it turns out, the sidelights would require a major overhaul to change out the original plain glass. Perhaps it’s just as well, since this woman doesn’t “do windows”—much.
“Cathedral” glass in Chile, by the way, means any kind of textured glass, such as pebbled, channel, etc. Nothing so boring as smooth and transparent here! Or perhaps we’re simply groping for an illusion of privacy in a country where you can sometimes reach your neighbors’ back door from your own. Unfortunately, it demands a lot of elbow grease to wash properly.
However, after living in a home with not one but two sets of all-but-inaccessible gable-end windows, I’ve begun to feel passionate about keeping the windows clean. Who says you can’t learn from your mother-in-law?
I’ve finally figured out the purpose: I cannot revel in those windows unless they glitter and glow. In fact, I’ll cringe from now until our next opportunity to borrow a stepladder tall enough. Half the beauty depends on translucent clarity. Dust and grime can make even clear windows looked stained.
Droplet #26: I will let the light of Jesus shine through my life.
Let There Be Light
And real stained glass? Can you perceive the gem-like colors and intricate patterns of even priceless rose designs without a staff dedicated to keeping the windows clean? I can’t imagine how maintenance manages it in places the size of Notre Dame or Chartres.
As you no doubt know, quartz sand is melted as the raw material of most manmade glass. Then, to make stained glass, color (in the form of metallic salts of copper, silver, cobalt, iron, etc.) is either applied as a glaze or added directly to a liquid mixture during manufacture. I was fascinated to realize that red in true antique glass is rare—because it required gold in the formula.
Medieval “illuminated wall decorations” were held together by strips of lead in a frame (a window!) and traditionally told Bible stories about the life of Christ or the apostles for those who couldn’t read. A variety of stained-glass shapes have adorned churches, palaces, public buildings, college halls, and even private homes. Today you’d more likely encounter flora, fauna, and landscape themes.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
My Swan Island Secrets series hints at a subtle secondary motif of LIGHT. Among several important events which take place at daybreak, the dawn’s early light streaming through a wall of windows in Swan Pose highlights a painting which hides a diary which reveals… If Coni Belmar hadn’t just scrubbed the glass to let in the light, you wonder what wouldn’t have happened.
Sunshine in My Soul
Light also symbolizes salvation, truth and meaning, liberty and purity. Coni sees herself in the unblemished looking glass of God’s light and is shocked by the reflection. She’s compelled toward the bright beauty in others, but looking at her own life, she finds no candle within. She hasn’t kept her windows clean. They’re not only smeared but stained.
Unlike the well-known quote above, I too often fail to strike the flame of “this little light of mine” inside. Why can’t I see the vibrant radiance of blood-red passion, the gold of fire-refined faith? Why don’t I glow with joy at the amazing vision and skill of the Master Craftsman?
Because I haven’t kept my windows clean. And what thwarts the needed scrubbing and polishing in my heart? I could list my excuses, good and bad: I’m busy. I’m lazy. Lack of time, lack of energy. I can’t climb that high. Maybe I refuse to bend that low.
But on the bottom line, it’s a problem of near-sightedness. My own vision’s cloudy and limited. And you can only detect the dirt in the light. You’ll miss the unspotted purity of the Master’s patterns without His perspective.
For some inexplicable reason, I’ve always pictured the Isaiah 6 “Holy, Holy, Holy” scene taking place in a grand stained-glass cathedral. The prophet is totally broken, undone by his vision of God’s glory.
He knows his people are weak-willed, foolish, and blind. Suddenly he views his own goodness as polluted by sin and laments even his “filthy lips”—his human forte as a speaker, you might say. His tools of the trade—the best gifts he can offer.
“If we allow ourselves to be undone in His presence, He will piece us back together in love.” –J. D. Greear, Not God Enough
A Glass Act
Self-interest soils many of my kindnesses, too. My “word” strengths are corrupted by flattery or controlled by fear. I trust my own wisdom and end up marred and scarred.
But cleaning and mending arrive on angels’ wings with Isaiah’s admission of shame and guilt. His lips and heart are set ablaze with new messages of the beauty of the Lord.
Facing my weaknesses and hard-heartedness can change my cries from “Woe is me!” to “Wow!” as well. The touch of the Master’s fire can retool all the broken pieces of our stained and sullied lives, so that Jesus can shine through. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9).
“We draw people to Christ…by showing them a light…so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” –Madeleine L’Engle
So admitting my dirt brings me to the first step in getting my windows clean and sparkling with sunlight. Confessing my unworthiness and inabilities—how small I am, yet how great God is—will fill me with confidence. It can transform my character, my words, my sense of mission…to shine “a light so lovely.”
The village church where I grew up boasted no stained glass. But I loved my toy kaleidoscope. Now commonly mass-produced, kaleidoscopes once meant an investment in a piece of exquisite artistry. First crafted around 1815, the mirrored tubes held glass beads which reflected in shifting symmetrical patterns as a ring was rotated.
Kaleidoscope is an intriguing word as well as an intriguing object. Kalos is the Greek word for good and beautiful. Eidos means view, form, shape. And skopeo means to look or examine. So we have beautiful shapes to look at.
Though I won’t have stained glass sidelights in my new home, I’ve remembered the Murano glass jewelry a daughter brought me from Venice a few years ago. What do you think? Could I incorporate it into a suncatcher or two?
At any rate, I’ll keep those windows clean whether my mother-in-law comes to visit or not.
Lord, don’t take me home until… Your sunlight kaleidoscopes through me.