“Sometimes I try to imagine what my life would be like if I had grown up assuming that I could experience God only within the parameters of this present world. I wonder if I would look more closely for him in the simple, everyday things, if I would ask more questions and search harder for the answers, if I would be seized by a sense of wonder and carpe diem, if I would live more deliberately and love more recklessly.” (Rachel Held Evans)
This week as I read through Rachel Held Evans’ memoir, "Faith Unraveled," I came across this quote. In this portion of the book she was talking about the concept of afterlife. She explains how the early Jews were a little fuzzy on the afterlife. The idea of a great hereafter wasn't widely accepted. This really piqued my interest. Lately I've been thinking a lot about the present.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that recently much of my life has been spent wishing I were somewhere else doing something else with my time. Perhaps this is just a consequence of being bitten by the travel bug, but I think we all experience this to a certain extent. A couple of weeks ago I sat in my education class with my laptop open. On one window I took notes as the professor lectured. In the other window I looked up information about bike trails, coffee shops, and public transportation in cities I would like to one day visit. Even when I’m at work, I’m thinking about what I would be doing if I weren’t at work. I spend a lot of time thinking about the future-- goals, hopes, plans, ambitions, money, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe there’s something powerful about hope in the future. Whether this is just hope in another season of life or hope in the hereafter. I believe there will be a time when Heaven and Earth kiss. I believe there will be a time when God will fully renew and restore the Earth. I believe there will be a time when God, in all of His tenderness, will wipe away our tears. But I also think we underestimate just how much God wants to meet us in the here and now.
As I’ve thought about this more and more I’ve become more conscious of God in the little things.
This morning in church, the choir sang a hymn. I’m not sure which one it was, nor could I hear the words. It sounded almost like a Gregorian chant. Each voice soared, harmonized with the others, and echoed throughout the room. I closed my eyes for a split second so I wouldn’t look around the room and people watch, but rather focus in on the sound I was hearing. As I went up to take communion I savored the doughy bread and embraced the burn of the wine in my throat as the rector tilted back the cup and said to me “the blood of Christ poured out for you.”
I’ve been sitting in a Starbucks this afternoon reading and every now and then I’ll look out the windows. I’ll look at the way the sun reflects off of cars and warms the back of necks. The way the green umbrellas and trees sway together in the wind. The way clouds look like painted little wisps, not necessarily symmetrical or perfectly white, but instead painted by a skilled artist who finds beauty in the so-called imperfections. As I sip my coffee I swish it around in my mouth a little bit trying to pick out the layers of flavor and words to describe them. Even now I focus in on the symphony many different sounds-- a Bon Iver song playing in my ears combined with the voices of others, the tapping of the keys on my laptop, espresso machines, blenders, and crinkling paper bags.
All of these things are seemingly common, but I’m finding that when I quiet myself enough to notice them, there’s a divine presence that meets me there. So often I feel like when I’m wishing I were somewhere else doing something else, I think it comes from a place of fear. Fear that I’m not doing something that I should be doing or that I need to do something else to be okay.
When in reality, it is finished. There’s nothing I need to do to be okay, accepted, or whole. There is nothing to fear. We live in the now. God is here with us now. Everyday we get to experience a foretaste of heaven when we open our eyes, ears, hands, mouths, and minds.