A good friend and I were driving across Indiana on a recent fall day when she looked out the window and asked, “What are you seeing?” On another, earlier trip she’d asked that question while we were deep in conversation about landscape and light. I’d waxed eloquent about the qualities of light that lit fields filled with corn stubble and soft contours of Midwestern rolling ground. Eloquently enough, at least, that she seemed to enjoy the conversation and my view on things she didn’t seem to see with her hillier, woodier New England eyes.
But this time her question stopped me cold. I looked around. I saw a not too unusual cloudy Indiana day in the middle of harvest. Some fields were picked. Some weren’t. I wondered why I couldn’t see the same way I did on our earlier trip. Then it hit me. I wasn’t paying attention in love to the landscape. Instead, I was paying attention to my friend and our conversation about books and writers.
Paying attention in love is something I am learning to do. When I’m successful at it then it’s hard for me to see the people and things around me as anything but gifts from God. My life stops flitting between the secular and the sacred – all is sacred.
The idea of the daily revealing the deity speaks to my heart. Perceiving this leads me into a new way of seeing the hand of God in all everything around me. It’s like when I see the Shaker box in our kitchen. Its simple beauty reminds me of the day I watched Charles Harvey making it. I see him hunched over his workbench, shaping the wood, setting the copper nails, and then signing his name and date to the bottom. Instead of just seeing a simply elegant oval box, like our friends and family do when we’re all gathered in the kitchen, I also see the trip that took my wife Nancy and me to his shop in Kentucky. I bask in the love of that trip and meeting this artisan.
Paying attention in love helps me stop and sense God present in everyday life. When I do that, I see that the poetry of the Psalms is more than poetry – “Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the Lord, … Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Trees don’t sing. Or do they? I believe the graceful, waving naked limbs of trees are hands uplifted in praise to God.
This appreciation for the divinely mysterious presence of God all around me enables me to see the Divine mark upon all of life’s goodness – from maple Shaker boxes to fox squirrels in the maple trees.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.