I’ve been reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It is particularly helpful for fiction writers, which I am not, but also contains some fertile insights for all writers – and non-writers as well. Here she is commenting on the value of keeping attentive to the world we inhabit:
There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. Or maybe you are not predisposed to see the world sacramentally, to see everything as an outward and visible sign of an inward, invisible grace. This does not mean that you are a worthless Philistine. Anyone who wants to can be surprised by the beauty or pain of the natural world, of the human mind and heart . . . . If you start to look around, you will see.
Yes. To see God in the ordinary is to see the extraordinary God – the only god worth seeing. Certainly the only god worth trusting. Behold the anachronistic robin bob-bob-bobbin’ along in January, and be reminded of the God who surely cares more for you than all the birds of the air combined, in season and out. See through the window the brown, winter-dead flowers, and remember that all the springtime energy that went into creating their here-today-gone-tomorrow splendor is but a nano-droplet in the infinite bucket of God’s resources made available for all your needs. Turn your fretting about hair loss into wonder that there is a God who had them all lovingly counted before the first follicle hung out its vacancy sign. And of course, we must not forget one of the most ordinary places to find God – in the toi toi. There we are reminded of the God who gives us, mercifully, a way to get rid of our dung: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That last reminder was stimulated by another Lamottian insight:
To be engrossed by something outside ourselves is a powerful antidote for the rational mind, the mind that so frequently has its head up its own ass—seeing things in such a narrow and darkly narcissistic way that it presents a colo-rectal theology, offering no hope to anyone.
O, God of the Ordinary, help us to extract our heads and see life with new and hopeful eyes – with your eyes.