I used the “We’re walking, we’re walking…” part of the line from the movie Dave as the set up for last week’s post (If you missed it, you can read it here). Here is the sequel – about stopping. As Ferris Bueller – Matthew Broderick’s character in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – says, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Stopping affords us the opportunity look and see. To pay attention to where we are. To examine the terrain; the topography; the “lay of the land.” To notice what’s there, and what isn’t. To acknowledge how far and from whence we’ve come. To be, before we rush off once again to do.
I don’t always do that.
Much of the time, I judge that I don’t have time to stop and look around. On those occasions when I do pause, my focus is often on the “big” “important” stuff down the road, letting all the little things around me go by unnoticed.
The truth is, we can’t afford not to stop and look. Those things we thought were small and ordinary aren’t.
I would give anything for one more day with Bill doing all those seemingly inconsequential things that filled what I perceived to be garden-variety days. Pouring two cups of coffee at breakfast, not one. Trading sections of the newspaper. (He read the funnies first, then the editorial page, then the headlines. For me it was the sports section, Ann Landers, then the editorials). Checking the weather. Talking over what our workday schedules looked like, what to have for dinner, and when. Sitting on the patio on summer evenings, watching the stars come out and the fireflies dance over the fields.
Most importantly, if we don’t stop and still ourselves, we miss the Holy in our midst, the God who is present in all things – the lofty and the lowly; the miraculous and the mundane. We need to, as author, artist, and pastor Jan Richardson puts it, “shut up long enough to notice God shuffling around in the daily events of our lives.” (For more about Jan and her work, click here).
But right now, I don’t want to stop and look.
I’m in that season of unhappy anniversaries – with a new one just added – and I don’t want to face the pain. And yet, these bittersweet days are reality for me. These losses are part of my life. This year, rather than working to fill the hours with distractions, I’m trying to shut up and lean into each day as it comes; to stop and be present to what is there, trusting that whatever it is – even it if is a mess – the Holy will be “shuffling around” in it with me.
I was reminded this week of one of my favorite old hymns, He Brought Me Out, the refrain of which is based on Psalm 40, and it’s one of the things I’m hanging onto. Verse two reads, in various translations, “He brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay.” “He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog.” “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire.”
That can only happen if the Holy is there. Present.
There with us, wherever “there” happens to be. In life. In death. In the blood. In the sweat. In the tears. In the “pit of despair” and the “miry bog”, as well as in all those moments of gratitude and celebration.
Take a moment, Dear Reader, to stop and look around. Still yourself long enough to “notice God shuffling around in the daily events” of your life.