What Do You See?
The picture above is the cover of my Ponder This book. Fourteen years ago, I put together a book of reflections, much like my blogs. Along with each story were discussion questions. I thought it would be a good resource for small faith sharing groups so I asked a group of friends if they would try it out. They gathered one summer evening in the back yard of one of the participants. Shortly after the discussion started, one of the women noticed an image on the fencepost that encircled the air conditioning unit next to the patio where they were gathered.
Do you see an image on the fencepost? The image of Mary holding baby Jesus?
Whenever I show this photo of that fencepost, which became the cover of my Ponder This book, and ask what people see, I get very interesting answers. Many say they see a bird. Some have seen a moose! Inevitably when I move the image farther away the true image becomes clearer.
They needed a different perspective. They needed to shift focus from the details and take in the whole scene. They needed to see the big picture.
Once you see it, you can’t not see it. It’s there in your awareness forever.
The same is true for our faith life. Once we become aware of the big picture, we can’t not see it. It changes us.
Author and minister, Howard Thurman, put it this way, “The central fact in religious experience is the awareness of meeting God. The descriptive words are varied: sometimes, it is called an encounter; sometimes, a confrontation; and sometimes, a sense of Presence.”
I remember, early in my faith walk, when I first had the feeling that God was real. I realized God wasn’t only present in church on Sunday, God was everywhere. In every breath, in every smile, in every tear.
I remember as my experiences of God being alive and all around me increased so did my awareness of a bigger picture. I sensed that my daily life had become a sacred space. Religious scholar, Mircea Eliade, defines sacred space as a place where there is an in-breaking of divine reality.
As I grew in awareness of and openness to the movements of God in my life, I felt like I was losing my grip on reality. I found myself thinking about God more than not. I was spending more and more time in prayer. I craved the company of other women who were thinking like me. My priorities started to shift. I wanted to experience all that the spiritual world had to offer. I was changing.
But I did feel like I was losing my mind until one day I shared that feeling with a wise, godly woman and she smiled and said, “You aren’t losing your grip on reality; you are finding reality for the first time.”
I had “seen” something that I couldn’t unsee. I had felt something I couldn’t unfeel. The touch of the divine.
Richard Rohr talks about this transforming experience as it relates to the prophets. He says, “The secret of the Hebrew prophets is they had a transforming experience of sacred space. Their world is reconfigured, life is reconfigured and afterward they have to go back to what looks ordinary but now has become entirely extraordinary for them. They see reality with a different set of eyes.”
What do you see all around you every day? A bird, a moose, or something extraordinary?