I’m slowly learning the reality of beauty woven into our simple existence; veiled, blurred, and just out of sight to the un-searching eye. So often I find myself, waist deep in life, simply unwilling to open my eyes. For me, however, the first step to seeing the gifts and beauty in front of me is not to simply “open my eyes”, but rather to recognize and understand that they are, in fact, closed. We don’t immediately go from excited and fulfilled to bored and unsatisfied in a minute or an hour or a day; it happens slowly like English Ivy overtaking your flower bed. For most of us, we don’t realize we’ve lost the vigilance to recognize the gifts of beauty and excitement around us until we are well down the path of being consumed by hurried schedules and the pressing demands of whatever the world throws at us.
The cookie cutter remedy for this is, of course, slow down and take time to enjoy the glory of a sunset or a beautiful flower. Set aside time to really reflect; replace the rush with the moment. Great advice, no doubt. The change in my overall demeanor when I’ve neglected to take a bit of time for myself is, I imagine, quite obvious. For most of us, maybe a little peace and quiet is all we really need, but sometimes, I think we have to go a bit further.
Before we go further though, I think we should try to understand what puts our heads in the clouds (and storm clouds at that) in the first place. For me, I think it’s usually perspective; I simply lose sight of what’s important. I get all worked up with worry and I obsess over whether or not I’m living like I want and need to be living. I make a mountain out of a molehill, and there, in my mind-made mountain I miss the goodness of life’s sweetest moments. How could I possibly soak in the love and the warmth of that deep conversation when my head and heart were elsewhere? Did I even notice when that vibrant, royal red cardinal perched a few feet away from me or was I too preoccupied with the mess of life? If I let it, worry can consume me as fully and perfectly as fire consumes a pile of dry brush. It’s sobering how selfish I feel when I truly understand the ease with which I can slide into this sort of constant inward thinking, always worried about myself and what everyone else thinks of me. I can be quick to lose perspective, and when I lose perspective, I lose the truth.
Have you ever “lost” something you were actually holding in your hand? You know, you suddenly realize you’ve misplaced something very important, such as your keys, and for as long as it takes you to settle down, you search frantically around the house wondering where in the world your keys may have gone. And then it dawns on you: they’re in your hand. You feel an amazing wave of relief (tinged with maybe just a bit of embarrassment) rush over you as the reality sets in that everything is OK; there is no need for panic.
Minus the frantic search (usually), we do essentially the same thing when we get entangled by the cares of the world and forget what is true. The truth lies in the palm of our hand, as accessible as always, but as soon as we get too busy, distracted or what have you to pay attention to it, we forget about it. With our forgetfulness, so goes our perspective and the creeping gray fog starts to settle in. Like little children that haven’t quite grasped the concept that things still exist even when they can’t be seen (mommy went into the other bedroom), we’ve totally neglected what we stood in so firmly a month or so ago.
At the heart of it, we’re in a constant battle for the truth, and the sides often aren’t drawn as clearly as we’d like; today I might be wrestling with my own mind and tomorrow I may be battling with something far more dark and unfamiliar. No matter what we may be facing, the point is to never stop fighting, and I’m sure this looks different for everyone. For some it may be going for a long, hard run or rereading an old book or quote that always brings truth. For me, I need to hear the truth (even if it hurts) from those around me, especially my closest friends, and I need to make time to seek God in solitude. Some of us may still be searching for whatever it is that helps us fight for the truth, and, if that is the case, fight to keep searching.
All of this fighting might sound terribly exhausting, but I believe it’s ultimately life giving in the same way that a hard day’s work feels so satisfying when you lie down at night, utterly spent, with the peace of a job well done. The alternative, on the other hand, is most definitely exhausting; nothing is more tiring than giving up.
One last thing to note: As I wrote this, I focused mostly on the spiritual aspect of fighting for the truth that brings me the most beauty and grace in life, and that’s the truth of the gospel. However, I tried to write it in a way that would showcase how important perspective and truth is in many different aspects of life. Whether or not you agree with me on spirituality or the importance of the gospel, I think we can all agree how vital it is for a young child to hear that he or she has what it takes to be successful in life or for a man in the middle of a crisis to have confidence that he can turn things around. At one point or another, we have all been fed lies about who we are and what we’re capable of: you’re not strong enough, you don’t have what it takes, you’re a failure, etc. My hope is that we’ll see through the lies, whatever they may be.