I’ve noticed how my attention to everyone in my life is constantly interrupted and constantly divided. Sophie requests to play dolls and I discover I need to change Ellie’s diaper. Jacob describes his day at work while Cohen simultaneously requests that I read aloud every activity on his pre-school calendar. Ellie wants to sit in my lap when my phone buzzes with a text across the room. The big kids request to play a game, but I notice their shoes and coats on the floor and it takes so long for them to pick them up the opportunity for the game passes. Have you ever felt this– that you can simultaneously accomplish 100 different things in day and not really accomplish anything at all?
But there was a moment this weekend that was (kind-of) different—a moment that began with a decision to focus my attention—and ended with the realization that I don’t need to accomplish as much as I need to be.
Ellie was taking a nap yesterday afternoon and Jacob and Cohen were making (what seemed like) their 5th trip to Ace Hardware/Menards/Home Depot. I perched the baby monitor antennae through a hole in the fence, and Sophie asked if I wanted to play catch with a big green ball in the backyard. I said sure. Sophie proceeded to clumsily juggle the green ball in her hands, bouncing it up and then dropping it, and then proceeding to chase it around the lawn herself. I quickly grew frustrated. “Sophie, let’s play catch, come on—“ I began. “But mama, we gotta do our sports warm-ups before catch,” she told me. “But didn’t you want to play catch with me?” I asked her again. But she wasn’t listening; she was just throwing the ball up in the air and dropping it and chasing it.
I was too weary to tell her to play catch “the right way” again, so I didn’t. And in that moment of weariness, I stopped and looked at her and I actually saw her for once, you know? And I realized I didn’t have to tell her to play catch so we could accomplish another “activity” together. I just watched her and was grateful for her. Eventually we did play “volleyball” catch and tried (and failed) to hit the ball back and forth to one another several times. Sophie’s wise commentary: “Ohhhh, bollyball. It’s called bollyball because there’s a ball in it.” After we played catch, she sat down and I lay down and we did that picturesque thing I’ve always thought of doing but never actually done—we imagined what the different clouds looked like. But even during this time, I had to quell my desire for what I thought ought to be (both of us lying down, like Carl and Ellie Frederickson in the movie Up) and instead focus on being present for what actually was: (me lying down and Sophie sitting next to me, occasionally shouting out completely random and oddly specific titles for the shapes above us.)
After a little bit of cloud watching, there was a moment I just closed my eyes. As I lay there with my back in the grass (once again quelling the voice in my head that said “you’re gonna be wheezing after lying on the grass like this), I heard Sophie’s voice humming from beside me. And I was thankful, because I think it was the first time I have actually heard her, really heard her, in weeks. And when you hear something like your three year old daughter’s voice—or your father’s voice, or your husband’s voice, or the voice of the girl who is making your coffee before work—when you really hear these things as they are and not how you try to coerce them to be—there’s kind of nothing you can do but cry. Because that voice is a miracle, don’t you see? Whether you believe in God or not—the existence of that voice in that moment – the infinite amount of occurrences that happened this way and not that in order for that voice to exist—is miraculous.
When you are attentive to the life you’ve been given—when you actually see things and actually hear things—you will recognize that purpose permeates every detail of your existence. But I think we can only experience this purpose when we let go of what we’ve envisioned life ought to be and recognize what it actually is.
So let us be blind enough to actually see, and silent enough to actually hear. Be present. Give your undivided attention to one thing this week, as difficult as it may be. We just might see a little bit of Glory.