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Turning Toward the Light

Is your life leaning toward the light? Dorothy Greco helps us understand how important living toward the light can be for us, and for others.


Turning Toward the Light: How to be a Heliotropic Christian

By Dorothy Greco

One of our family’s favorite homeschooling units was a lengthy study of botany. Our three sons loved planting and tending their fragile seedlings, drawing the plants’ daily progress, and gaining a deeper understanding of how flowers and vegetables grow. As usual, I learned something too.

Heliotropism was a new concept for me. This SAT-worthy word describes how some plants physically turn toward the light. Most varieties of sunflowers are heliotropic. They rotate their heads to track the sun throughout the day. Every night, the plant stem reorients the flower back to the east, anticipating the rising sun. In the Greek, helios mean sun, or source of light, and tropos means change. So being in the light brings about growth and change.

This truth has been essential for me both professionally and spiritually.

I’ve worked as a photographer for almost forty years. Perhaps more than any other variable, light affects the quality of an image. Too much light and the image will be blown out and flat. Too little and details get lost. Understanding how to work with the light often differentiates a novice photographer from an expert. When I’m out on assignment, I’m constantly trying to determine the best time of day to shoot and always moving toward the light.

Throughout Scripture, God is frequently compared to or described as light. The prophet Isaiah referred to God as “the light of Israel.” (Isaiah 10:17) David understood God’s word as “a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105) And as recorded in John’s gospel, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12)

It seems rather obvious then that we should endeavor to be heliotropic—always orienting ourselves toward God, who is the source of all light.

For me, this means constantly asking myself how is God working in and through me at this moment and how can I turn toward, and follow him? That sometimes looks like confessing sin to a friend or obeying when I sense the Holy Spirit nudging me to pray for someone, even if I just met them five minutes ago and have no idea how they might respond. It could mean going for a long walk or spending more time reading Scripture and less time reading food magazines or Christian formation books—an ongoing struggle for me!

Turning toward the light requires attentiveness and intentionality. It also requires us to activate our wills because becoming heliotropic doesn’t happen by default.

The crazy, miraculous thing is that as we orient ourselves toward God’s light, we become sources of light ourselves. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

What a privilege it is for us to reflect God’s light and love to the world and give him glory in the process! May we keep turning toward him all the days of our lives.

WPhoto credit - lead image: Todd Trapani on Unsplash

Body of text: Photos ©DorothyGreco. These images may not be used or reproduced without permission.


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