After a fun morning and afternoon with an old friend one Sunday, I was driving him back home. The day was unseasonably warm– probably breaching 60 at the beginning of February. Naturally, I was enjoying the beautiful weather with my windows rolled down.
We pulled up to a stoplight at a busy intersection. The area has several shopping centers, restaurants, and service businesses. In the Atlanta metro area, that often means sign spinners. There are usually several spinners during the day at this particular intersection. If you don’t know, sign spinning (or being a human directional) is the art of advertising in which a person is paid to stand outside and hold, spin, flip, and/or wave a giant sign promoting their business or a special deal. The ones in our neighborhood normally just stand still.
On this specific occasion, a spinner was holding a sign for a craft beer store. As we pulled to a stop, we realized he was holding the sign like a guitar and pretending to rock out. Not only that, but he was singing at the top of his lungs. He had a manly, sort-of rough voice, and we couldn’t make out all of the words, but the song sounded familiar.
Trying to place the song, I first thought it sounded like 3 Doors Down or some grunge rock band, but none of their songs that came to mind fit. Then, I caught a few words of the chorus and realized,
“I think he’s singing ‘Praise You in This Storm’ by Casting Crowns! Yeah, that’s it!” My friend agreed with me and he looked it up on my iPod. I gave the sign spinner a thumbs up and he gave me a mid-rock-out wave.
We turned the song up in my car, hoping he’d hear it, but he had headphones in and was looking for another song on his device. When I drove back by a few hours later, he was still rocking out and singing loudly, though I didn’t catch the song that time.
I’m not entirely sure why, but the singing sign spinner made my day. I’m not even a huge Casting Crowns fan (though I like that song).
I loved that he was singing at the top of his lungs and going all out, not caring what anyone thought as thousands of people drove and walked by during his shift. More than that, I loved that he was PRAISING GOD at the top of his lungs and going all out, not caring what anyone thought.
I loved that he was making what many would consider a bad job into something fun, beautiful, and inspiring. I loved that he was holding a sign for beer. While I choose not to drink alcohol, I don’t think it’s wrong for believers to so in moderation, but still, it’s not what I was expecting when I rolled up beside him.
I loved that in this part of the city that I’ve learned a lot about and feel burdened for, this guy was spreading both moving art and the message of truth.
Don’t tell his employer, but the sign spinner wasn’t advertising beer– he was advertising Jesus.
The particular area we were in often feels to me to be heavy with darkness. People are broken, lost, needy, rebellious, chasing after anything and everything but God (though that could describe anywhere). The spiritual darkness is real, clouded with sin and death, crashing with thunderous suffering and splitting the sky with flashes of pain. Despair and dreariness of life shower the people, the sidewalks, the buildings. And in the middle of it all, there is a sign spinner on the corner, praising God in this storm.
As I drove away thinking of the sign spinner, in my mind was a vision of light breaking through the darkness, like cracking glass that would soon shatter. I didn’t think about the connection to the song he was singing until later.
Now, I think of the Jesus-loving poet and the harmonica-playing Christian and the sign-spinning God-worshipper. Speaking, playing, singing about a God who holds us in our brokenness, lifts us out of our self-destruction, whispers words of love to us in our loneliness; a God who is good, intimate, sovereign, and real. And I begin to realize that in the midst of darkness, God has pockets of light breaking through everywhere. His people are like stars in the sky; when concentrated, like a city on a hill.
These people of light I find strewn on street corners and in coffee shops, they give me hope. For Decatur. For Atlanta. For the world. For the Church. For me– and how I can express my faith, how I can shine brightly in the darkness.
They give me both relief and responsibility. Relief that I’m not alone– God has an army of light, sentinels placed strategically to watch over the ground He’s ready to gain. I don’t have to worry that it all depends on me and my community of believers. The laborers may be few, but they’re present. Responsibility that if they can do it, I can do it. I have gifts, passion, a story, a message– all meant to be shared. God, forgive me for keeping them to myself. Thankfully, on both these counts, my help comes from the Lord. He sends, enables, and provides the harvest. He makes sure I am never alone, for He is always with me. His plans for this city, for these lives, is not haphazard. He has a battle strategy to edge out the darkness and spread the light.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” —1 John 1:5-7
God is light. When we follow Him, we walk in the light and are a fellowship of light with one another. It is so good for my soul to look around this dark world and see that light breaking through.
If you liked this post, you might also enjoy Open Mic Night, Timeline: GenSend ATL Recap #3, and What a Missionary Looks Like: GenSend ATL Recap #4.