Shining in God’s Eyes

Monday, February 17, 2020

Recently a major event occurred which gained the attention of the whole world. Not you, Hollywood! Not everything is about you! I’m referring to the 6th annual “Night to Shine” event, a prom night experience for people with special needs. It is put on by the Tim Tebow Foundation, and this year it was hosted by 721 churches in all 50 states and in 34 different countries. There were about 115,000 honored guests and 215,000 volunteers.

Although these numbers sound impressive, this event is all about individuals. Each honored guest is valued and made to feel special. I had the honor of being a volunteer for the first time, and it had to be one of the most grace-filled evenings I’ve ever witnessed.

The honored guests are given the royal treatment. When they arrive, they have hair and make-up done and/or shoes shined, walk down a red carpet to loud cheers, eat dinner and dessert, dance, sing karaoke, and even pet a comfort dog or bunny (that last one is only if you attend at my church!), and then each guest is crowned the king or queen of the prom.

It got me thinking. Being crowned is a funny tradition, at least here in the United States. For a country with no monarchy, we are obsessed with royalty. Our children want to be kings and queens, princes and princesses. This is not only true for little boys and girls; adults are just as enamored. Shows like The Crown are ridiculously popular, and our magazines are swarming with news about the royal family. We fantasize about being like them — full of beauty and power.

The thing about royalty is that it is not something earned or acquired by effort. You have to be born into a royal family. (It’s ironic that, in the US, high school students vote for the prom king and queen winners.) Sure, people marry into royalty, and some who are already somewhere in the royal line have tried to force their way onto the throne, but that doesn’t typically end well for anyone. One episode of The Crown reveals how the young Elizabeth wanted to give up her rightful place in the order of succession to her little sister, Margaret. They both agreed to the arrangement, but to their disappointment the law would not allow it. The throne belonged to Elizabeth, and no one could change that.

So the fact that all of the “Night to Shine” guests receive crowns shows the charm of the event. Attendees are celebrated just for being who they are, who God created them to be — members of God’s royal family. The pinnacle of the night came when Tim Tebow’s message to the guests was viewed on the big screen. He told them that they are all special, they are all kings or queens of the prom, and that that’s the way God sees them every day. Imagine you are someone who does not feel like you “fit in” and maybe even questions your worth in the eyes of the world, and you hear this message. Then our pastor said a prayer, but before that he made sure to tell everyone that they are loved by God through Jesus Christ. At the name of Jesus, the whole dance floor began to cheer. It’s not every day that you get to hear Jesus’ name praised in that way.

At one point during the night, my “buddy” (the guest I walked around with) asked if this event was some sort of fundraiser. I answered, “No, it’s completely free!” I could see the look of surprise on her face. We are not used to being given something with no strings attached.

What a beautiful picture of God’s Kingdom, where his beloved sons and daughters are clothed in beauty, showered with love, and where the light of Christ shines on them and through them. Not many of us will ever be earthly kings or queens (or prom kings or queens for that matter), but we all shine as members of the royal family, because we are heirs with Christ, the King of kings.