noticing what is, not what isn’t.
// i usually pace things out a little more here but i’m going out of town tomorrow for a week. if i don’t get things up when they come, the moment sort of passes so sharing these while they’re fresh. one more tomorrow & then back for summer and planning to try a few new things here on the blog to mix it up a bit! //
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“few of us ever live in the present. we are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”
- louis l’amour
this past season i have been trying to practice a simple spiritual discipline: celebrating what is instead of focusing on what isn’t. in all kinds of ways, it’s been helpful. at the refuge, during our first few years, the only thing i seemed to center on was who wasn’t there, what wasn’t the way-i-thought-it-should-be, the things we lacked. at home, it was the projects that weren’t done, the things i hadn’t taught my kids yet, the things-that-always-fell-short. in my personal life it was the same way–always centering on all the things that weren’t instead of honoring the good that was.
this past saturday night at the refuge my friends craig & jenny facilitated a beautiful exercise on mindfulness & the art of noticing. using contemplative photography, we set out to see things with new eyes. i will post the refuge blog link of everyone’s work once they have the slideshow put together, but let me just say–it was beautiful! amazing, the loveliness that we “saw” when we opened our eyes to it.
i was thinking afterward how the idea of focusing on what is instead of what isn’t has not been nurtured in my faith experience over the years. some might think it’s a stretch, but i believe it goes back to the core theology of depravity vs. being created in the image of God. this distinction is important; when the focus is on what isn’t (all the ways we fall short and suck) instead of celebrating what is (image bearers, with all of God’s glory there to be uncovered), it creates an insecurity that robs many of us of life now.
we end up only focusing on what we aren’t instead of honoring what we are.
we end up spending all of our energy on how-we-fall-short instead of experiencing being fully loved by God, here, now, in spite of our character defects.
it creates an insidious and invisible bar-of-expectation that steals joy and peace in our daily lives.
we develop in-grown eyeballs where we are always failing personally, spiritually, practically.
“noticing what is” doesn’t mean we don’t care about transformation or change or that we are settling for less. it doesn’t mean we don’t desperately need God’s help & Spirit-at-work-in-our-lives to constantly transform us. it doesn’t mean we don’t want things to be different in our lives, our relationships. as someone dedicated to recovery & healing, there’s no question that there will always be an awful lot of inner-work to be done!
but i think we often miss a lot of what’s happening in the moment because we are so focused on the past or thinking we need to get to the future faster.
noticing what is, not what isn’t is noticing the good in today because today is all we have. it is celebrating God’s work in our lives so far instead of being so mad about all the things that aren’t there yet. it is having eyes to see beauty in the midst of the ugly–our own beauty & beauty in other human beings, too. it’s practicing gratitude instead of disdain for our present circumstances.
noticing what is, not what isn’t is not all about our inner journey, either. it’s apparent in many other ways, too–in our ministries, our vocations, our relationships, our families, our present circumstances. in each of these areas it’s easy for me to think of all the things that aren’t instead honoring the things that are.
something very interesting happened to me during the exercise on saturday night. on my walk to the place of quiet, i didn’t see much. i was focused on finding a spot, i was focused on getting where i needed to be. if anything, i thought the walk was pretty ugly.
as a space opened up for quiet & contemplation, it was wild, really, the things i began to see. God’s beauty poking up out of the hard ugly ground. the crisp air & the blue sky. the flowers in the midst of weeds. rusty railroad spikes next to lovely colored broken glass.
on my walk back, i was much more aware. the colors were more vivid, the beauty more apparent.
i began to have new eyes to see.
it was very simple, very profound. a lesson i hope lingers.
God, it’s so easy to focus all of our energy on what isn’t. help us cultivate eyes to see what is and celebrate it as a gift.
ps: this pic is one that i took on saturday night during the exercise. lots of pretty broken glass near the railroad tracks that i’ve never seen before!