For years, I’ve been fascinated by stained glass windows. Other than the obvious reasons for their appeal—the way they add an interesting element to a room and how they change colors according to the light shining in from outside and that they have limitless possibilities for artistic expression—I also appreciate how difficult they can be to construct.
There’s glass-cutting, welding and soldering, painting and sealing. There’s sharp tools and hot kilns and noxious epoxies and a material that can easily crack and break. No doubt being a stained glass artisan is a methodical and sometimes frustrating job with cut fingers and strained eyesight.
None of the outside windows in my home contain stained glass, but I do have seven old, discarded stained glass windows hung across two of my kitchen walls. I collected them over the years from antique stores, some pricey and some dirt cheap. Though they don’t catch the sun’s rays, they still brighten up a boring off-white corner above our kitchen banquette.
All of my collection are just for show. They have no practical purpose or function. They don’t keep out the winter cold or the summer heat. My windows are just there to look pretty. But the stained glass windows in ancient churches and cathedrals had a real purpose. Besides insulating the people inside from the weather outdoors, they were designed to tell a story.
In medieval times, artists would work with church leaders to create a Poor Man’s Bible. They would explain the narrative of the Bible to a mostly illiterate population through a series of pictures. One whole window might be filled with panes depicting the story of Jesus’ birth. Then the one next to it might have pictures only relating to the book of Genesis.
I can just imagine an uneducated laborer walking into one these Gothic structures and sitting down on a hard, wooden pew. He would look up in awe at the massive glass story boards surrounding him as he pieced together these epic sagas from God’s Word.
I am a window, in a way. Just like those complicated and exquisite stained glass windows in medieval churches, I have the ability to tell a story, too, but my story will be more effective if it isn’t just hung on an off-white wall—decorating without educating, adorning without informing, embellishing without enlightening. The story I have to tell will be so much more powerful if I allow a bright, sunny light to pass through the colored panes. If I can deliver my testimony from the point of view that God’s light has shown through every moment of my life, it will be a compelling story, for sure.