The Practice of Seeing What is Real


There are many things that we know with our minds and intellect that we really don’t know.  This knowledge doesn’t change the way that we see.  It doesn’t change the way that we act.  Sometimes we need reminders of the way things really are.  We need help remembering our place in the scheme of things.  At least, I know that I do.

I recently had a date with the morning star thanks to some early morning insomnia.  Sometimes these moments of sleeplessness lead to something good.  Like poetry.  Sometimes, I get to notice things I would not otherwise notice.  Like the morning star.

The star’s light was so bright.  Flickering. Glimmering.  At first, I wondered if it was an airplane because it looked so near.  But instead of moving across the sky toward the airport, it stayed just above the last pine tree in our backyard.

The horizon held just a hint of light.  Darkness shrouded the landscape–if that is what you would call my backyard with its play set, empty garden, trees, and wooden fence backing up to a street.  I glanced at the star again.  And I realized that the star was not staying in place like I had thought.  The star hung a little higher and had traveled just a bit east.

The horizon brightened.  The sky took on a deep blue hue.

The sun was rising.  The star was moving.
I sat grounded on the couch in my living room.

At least, that was my perspective.

The sun rising.  The star moving.

But in reality I’m the one that is spinning at about 733 miles/hour on this planet that I’ve hitched a ride on.  Spinning toward the sun and away from the darkness and then away from the sun toward dark again.  The sun does not revolve around me.

Sometimes I need the reminder.

I need to remember my place in things.

I need this perspective change–a wake up call to my heart and its place in this world.

This world is so big.  And so old.  And I am so small.  And finite.  Just one small part.

It really is easy to forget.

When I think that it is all about me, it is easy to resent people for taking up my time, for being in my way, for making me late, for making the grocery-line longer, for slowing traffic, for interrupting my thoughts, for talking too loudly, for intruding when I want to be alone, for thinking differently than I do, for worshipping in ways that I don’t understand, for needing things I don’t need.

The sun does not revolve around me.

What I realized on this morning is that I need a heart transplant–like the kind that the prophet Ezekiel talked about: replacing my cold, hard heart with a living, beating one.  A heart that is open to receiving and reflecting the love of God.  A heart that beats for every person I encounter.  A heart that recognizes and mirrors the belovedness of each person, regardless of who they are or what they look like or where they live.

Sometimes my heart is keenly aware of this belovedness and our connectedness.  But then it seems to fall asleep.  Forgetting that the sun does not revolve around me, that life is not just about me, I fall back into the old way of seeing those around me.

Today, I’m thankful for the reminder to see what is real.  The reminder that I’m along for the ride, part of something much bigger than me.

“Eventually we discover that, as painful as it is, this waking up to what is real is where the action is, spiritually speaking.”
~Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

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