When my boys ask me on the way to church why I like the Liturgy I tell them, “Because it’s beautiful.” I ask them to look for that beauty, not just now, but always, even one moment of that beauty in the middle of the noise, in the middle of the boredom. I tell them about the wind turbines on either side of I-65 near Lafayette, how on a long journey it’s important that we observe those small moments of beauty, though we might be tired or bored or hungry or distracted.
Where I once thought of my vocation or calling in somewhat linear, marked-trailhead sort of terms — hoping to discern the all-inclusive single occupation best matched to my personality profile, or to divinely sense the most intuitive, singularly direct path for making a positive difference in the world — my experience has instead felt more like wandering-with-intention toward the next little rock pile where I inevitably see more of the terrain that lies before me.
The skill of intentional staring has been made obsolete by our fast-paced society. There is so much new to see that stopping to stare can be an almost frightening experience. After all, we just might miss something novel and viral — the topic of every chat room and all our Facebook friends. Like so many skills from the past, sustained staring will have to be recovered just as slow food, reading aloud, unhurried conversation, and honoring rest as essential to creativity, personhood, and good work are being rediscovered by so many in a generation weary of the empty promises of modernity.
Silence a man’s inner dialogue and take away the filter through which he runs what he chooses to say and what he keeps inside, and what comes out of him will likely fall closer to the truth than to fiction. If this is true, then it is in me to belittle kindness and glare at beauty. It is in me to tell the ones who love me most to go away. It is in me to reject the advances of grace. And it is true. I know it is.
Joy can be found in the most unexpected places. In the hurting (or rejoicing) co-worker down the hall, in the redemption offered by a hard conversation with a friend, and in the painful void that accompanies loneliness. Every day and every season bring a unique composition of light and shadow. Every day and every season offer new opportunities to experience joy.