From time to time I like to read through old journal entries of mine. Some of them are simple and straight to the point, mentioning something like this one from April 16th, 2014:
“I’m currently sitting in Starbucks on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. This is the first time Ezra’s been out of the house since he was born.”
I have lots of small little entries like that one, simply marking a significant moment in time. But I do have many longer, more thought out entries. And often these more thoughtful entries are inspired by a book I am reading or a TV show or movie I recently watched.
This morning as I was reading through a journal from a couple years ago I came across an entry from January 18, 2018 that I had forgotten about about, but that I liked, so I thought maybe I’d share that here. The entry is a response to a passage from Fredrick Buechner’s book The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life.
The journal entry starts off quoting a passage from the book:
“The New Testament tells us to stop, look, and listen again. I think of Jesus, and I think of Emily Dickinson, of all people, who said a wonderful thing in a letter she wrote: “You know, there is only one commandment I have never broken” — which is wonderful, for I can’t imagine Emily Dickinson breaking any commandments, though I’m certain she has broken as many as the rest of his — “and that is the commandment, ‘Consider the lilies of the field.’ Wonderful. She is referring, of course, to what Jesus says to the crowd on the hillside — “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29 RSV)
It’s a joke, in a way, the thought of commandments like this, but in another way it is the kind of commandment that it seems to me Jesus gives in different ways again and again, that this life is, in a way, a parable: Consider the lilies of the field. Consider what it was to find that thing you had lost, that coin, that ring your mother gave you, that photograph that could not be replaced and suddenly it is there. Consider your heart itself…consider that. Consider the lost sheep. Consider the dead sparrow. Consider the way leaven works in bread. Consider the way seeds grow, that tiny little bit of a seed that grows and grows and grows until it’s a tree as big as Texas.
Pay attention to these things.
And, of course, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is this: loving God and loving our neighbors. I don’t know what it means to love God — really, I’m not all that good at it — but I think one of the things it means is, just as in the case of loving anybody else, you stop and watch and wait. Listen for God, stop and watch and wait for him. To love God means to pay attention, be mindful, be open to the possibility that God is with you in ways that, unless you have your eyes open, you may never glimpse. He speaks words that, unless you have your ears open, you may never hear. Draw near to him as best you can.”
Jesus asks us, perhaps commands us, to consider the details around us and in us.
Consider the lilies of the field.
Consider the lost coin, the lost sheep, the lost son.
Consider the sparrow searching for food.
Consider the yeast in your bread.
Consider the wonder of a seed becoming a sequoia.
Consider the sacrifice of the widow.
Consider that the rain that falls on both the just and the unjust.
Consider the naked, the thirsty, and the hungry.
Consider the beam of wood in your eye.
Consider others more important than yourself.
On the hardest of days, when one of the girls is being as despicable as they can be, unearthing the worst parts of herself from the darkest, yuckiest parts of her heart — even then, when I look at her, at her face and in her eyes, I am looking at someone who is sacred, beautiful, and loved.
These are realities no matter the circumstances. They are instilled into her because she is made in the image of God. The spark of the divine is within her. And despite any wrestlings with the struggles and evils that surround her and regrettably find places within her own heart, the truth of who she is and what she is still remains.
When I encounter her, even in the ugliest of moments, an opportunity to look past the dirt and grime of the moment is given to me. I am called to recognize the sanctity of the moment. A challenge to live into the command of Jesus, to love as he loved. I am gifted with a chance to step into that sacred moment, a place that exists beyond the content and circumstances of this world and into the promises of the divine. There is beauty there, if I only pay attention to it.
Despite what emotions I may be feeling, despite what vulgarity might be spewing from her mouth, the reality is that this girl before me has the fingerprints of the divine upon her, of which even the greatest art of this world remains only but a shadow. Because of this she is more beautiful than even the most stunning sunset, mountain view, or ocean scene. As she breaths, she breaths in and out the breathe of life given to her by the God who declared her as “very good.”
Despite how she may see herself, or how the world around her might so easily discard her, or even when the best of intentions of love from both friends and family fall short, she is remains perfectly loved. And in the moments in which she portrays herself as unlovable, I am given the privilege of being a proxy of love and grace. Grace is untouched by the attempts to persuade it to deem a value upon the priceless or to love based on merit or deservedness. It knows nothing of those things.
It is my daily challenge to step into the sacred moment and be grace, and to be grace in all moments.