My presence and openness to God, to the world and to those around me — and especially to those in need — defines me in a much greater way than the pride of my busy-ness. My silence before God labels me in a way far superior to the accolades for what I have accomplished.
All too often, it seems, we take the world and our role in it all too casually. We wake with a yawn and stumble through our mornings, gulping coffee and rushing to work or elsewhere and paying little to no attention to what’s happening around us.
We may be re-energized by a brisk walk or a exhilarated by a bike ride, but we also require the quiet introspection that comes from solitude, reflection or prayer, from placing ourselves before the world like an open lens and allowing ourselves to be imprinted by it all, like photographic plates or film, by what the world is showing us.
Gratitude, it seems to me, is the starting point for our lives of prayer, creativity and living well among others. But gratitude is easy to say and harder to live by because it’s hard work. Saying “thank you” to God and to others around us is the simplest thing to do and, yet, we so often forget to do it. Or don’t make time to do it. Or don’t make it a part of our daily experience.
“Here I am,” is perhaps the most authentic response we can make to God. “Here I am” is awareness of the present and of the fact that I am in the presence of something great and beyond myself. “Here I am” is the beginning of my day, the busy-ness in the midst of my day, and the end of the day when my head hits the pillow and I briefly try to recall when I might have experienced God.
I stand at the edge of the world
Sea and sand swirling ‘round my feet
Anchored by the weight of the pulling and swelling
Facing outward, toward a monochrome horizon
Ocean and sky barely distinguishable one from the other
A landscape that could have been sketched by a No. 2 pencil.
The history of our art, our music, our science and engineering breakthroughs more often than not springs from our ability to pay attention to the world around us. The ordinary world, from its molecules and atoms to the grandest of canyons and the vastness of oceans, continues to inspire and motivate change, innovation and art.
There are, indeed, patterns in our lives that exist whether we recognize them or not, whether or not we give them even a passing nod or sing to them a hymn of gratitude.
No blue sky today, I thought. But then I looked, perhaps for the first time that day, at the green. The green of the grass and the trees exploded into my vision and I was taken aback by the utter beauty and contrast of the wet green against the coldness of the rest of the landscape. I woke up, it seems. It’s not drab, I thought, it’s just God telling me to remember that beauty lies all around us, all the time, if we’ll only wake up and pay attention.
This “transfer of life” that takes place in the presence of real beauty is perhaps why we gasp, as if we’re being re-born and sucking in air for the first time. It’s why so many of us find God in nature, in wind-blown places where the spirit wanders as it pleases and finally comes to rest on our lips and helps us pray, help us whisper that “thank you.”