Wednesday, May 28, 2014

watch, wait, see

Lately, I've been reminded of how often I miss things.  I've often allowed distractions whether inside my head or outside of it to make me miss the things that are right in front of my eyes.  A hurry, rush, distract mindset keeps me from a watch, wait, and see kind of life, the kind I ultimately desire.

A few weeks ago I finished reading "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," a book of reflections by Annie Dillard from living next to and observing a creek and the life surrounding it and in it for a year.  I read it over the course of a few months, which was not the best way to read it, but I loved it despite struggling to sometimes grasp the overarching structure, which was fully revealed at the end.

The thing I learned, the thing that changed me from reading it was a reawakened desire to see, to be present and watch for things I would otherwise miss in my daily mental distraction.

Around the time I finished the book it finally started getting warm here in Chicago.  My daughter and I go on frequent walks together through our neighborhood, soaking up the sun I missed so badly, and my baby girl meeting the sun for the first time after spending her first months of life trapped inside by late fall and a long winter.

Now I watch, I try to see things I would normally miss.  So like Annie waiting on the bridge for muskrats, I look to see things in places that are familiar, waiting to see something new.  I saw a bird with black and white markings with a red badge on its chest, a kind I had never seen before in the next door neighbor's tree.  I marveled at the nearly naked trees exploding into vibrant green after the spring rain last week.  I saw bird droppings fall from a tree.  I stopped to breathe and smell lilacs.  I watched squirrels carry their trash turned treasure from the garbage cans along the fence.  I saw a tree bloom beautiful pink blossoms one day, and returned to see the petals covering the sidewalk a couple days later.

And I watch my baby.  I watch her take in everything for the first time.  I see her look up into the trees and gaze at the branches, stark against the blue sky.  I watch her grip the tray of her stroller, sticking out her little chin, braving the spring wind, looking like a tiny sea captain of a ship she can't steer.   I see neighbors smile at her whether or not they make eye contact with me.  I hear her babbling and cooing to the trees, the flowers, the wind.  I watch her give in to sleep and wait for her to wake up and discover more of the world surrounding her.

I'm seeing the beauty, the gifts around me, and the newness of life in spite of the brokenness around me.  

It isn't all idyllic in a Chicago neighborhood.  There were emergency vehicles on our block the other night. A man passed away a few houses down. We've seen graffiti on garages, on stop signs.  There are streets full of potholes.  There are homeless men peddling at the corner.  One look at the Tribune in the morning can sour your day to there being any hope in a violent city like this.

Pascal said, "Every religion that does not confirm that God is hidden, is not true."  The brokenness is often the blinder, the shield against seeing the God who heals and creates, the God who makes all things new.

The brokenness is evident not just among humans but in the world of creatures as well.  In the second half of Tinker Creek, Dillard spends time focusing on the violence in creation.  Animals eating their own young,  the mating ritual of praying mantises, bugs and animals living parasitically off of each other, the river floods.  Even in a pastoral setting with few humans to cause trouble, there is violence, there is pain.

Prolonged study of nature, be it the created world or mankind or both together, will dazzle the observer with breathtaking sights of beauty and bitter signs of corruption.  Things are beautiful and things are broken.

"Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God."- George Washington Carver

I want the voice of God to speak to me in sunsets and spring rain, but could it be that the voice is just as loud when I walk by the dead body of a pigeon, a fallen tree, a smelly sewer grate, a one-eyed dog?

"For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20

Perhaps the voice that shouts to me of the divine nature of God when I see the stars in the Northwoods is the same voice that screams inside me when another child is shot on the south side of my city, when someone dies too young, too soon.  The voice that cries "all is not right" begs me to recognize that there must be something, Somebody who is right, who is good.  That this world wasn't made for violence, and one day it will be violent no more.

Can the brokenness that hides God help us find Him once again?

Can the glimpses of beauty remind us there is something Beautiful behind it?

Will we be saved by observation that leads to sorrow that leads to repentance?

We took a walk last week and passed the house that was visited by emergency vehicles a few days earlier.  Our little neighbor was running through the grass and laying dandelions and tulip petals on the porch steps.  "I'm decorating the porch for my neighbor who died," she told us solemnly.  Beauty in brokenness.

The world around us is one grand parable of a hidden God that will make Himself known to children and those with child-like hearts. He will speak in the splendor and the suffering.  We must wait, watch, and see that we may know and understand.  Open eyes may lead to our salvation.

"Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"  He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Once more Jesus put His hands on the man's eyes.  Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly." Mark 8:23-25

We can't stop looking for the God who gives sight to the blind, makes the lame walk, and the deaf hear.  The God who made things perfectly is renewing that which is broken.  Whole or shattered, He is still here amongst the pieces for those who look for Him.

"And He who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Revelation 21:5

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