Amidst moving, starting a new job, and get settled into normal life, a writing break was bound to happen. If I resolved to write more this year, we’ll just ignore that small detail and move forward.
The Northland is the most refreshing and tranquil refuge, and I can’t imagine a better place to refocus on what’s most important. Even up here, though, it’s sometimes hard to escape the endless barrage of indignation and negativity that’s clutching our world today. Whether as old as humanity or a quirk of our current times, it’s plain that controversy reigns as king of our world, and many (if not most) give him too much control over our daily lives. We can become nearly addicted to feelings of indignation, frustration, and anger, even when (or especially when) caused by issues completely out of our control. I think of all the cynical, mocking, and snarky articles that appear daily on social media—from all sides of the spectrum—and wonder at how much all of us are continually feeding ourselves a sickening diet of this tension and strife.
What we choose to see affects our thoughts, behaviors, and reality. I’m not denouncing critical thinking, or suggesting that we turn a blind eye and give our silence to all injustice in the world. But I do think that life is ripe with a peace, contentedness, and grace we could be reaping that gets silenced under the never-ending noise of news, politics, and the Internet, even though we were created and redeemed for so much more than the squabblings of this world.
For the last several years, my dad has had an idea or challenge to pick a word as the theme for your year. It can be anything, but usually reflects a value you want to live by for the coming year. There wasn’t a specific term that jumped to my mind this time as in years previously, but as I kept driving to work and noticing how the lake never looks the same each day, or how bright the stars shine above our house, or how the sunlight strikes the tops of the birch trees in the mornings, it came to my attention just how much there is in life to see.
Growing up Orthodox, I learned to see all of life as a sacrament, or an interaction with the divine presence of God. Nothing happens apart from the presence of God, for he is everywhere, and in his creativity even the most mundane actions can be a means of relating to him. Watching the sunset is a chance to relate to God, for he created the light and clouds and beauty itself. Walking hand in hand with my husband is a chance to experience God and remember that he is the source of all love and relationship. Even breathing is relating to God, for it is in him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28).
This is a beautiful way to see life, really, but is hard to do when we choose not to look, or really don’t expect to see God everywhere. Even when his radiant, life-giving presence is right in front of our eyes, we spend so much time looking away from it and feeding the temptation to look to the issues and anger and frustration of this world. But the beauty of God and his kingdom isn’t something we have to wait to see once the dust settles; the presence of God is here and now.
And so, born out of a desire to awaken to the nearness of God, my word for the year is see. See, because there is so much to be seen. See, because I want to remember where to direct my eyes. See, because seeing yields a rich, joy-filled gratitude I want my life to be full of (Luke 1:49). See, because in this stunning corner of the earth there is so much to drink in. See, because God wants to be seen.
So begins the journey of this year. Perhaps you can pick out your own word for the year, or challenge yourself to a week of putting away social media and other sources of frustration and use the extra time to slow down and really notice and appreciate the gifts and presence of God around you.
What we choose to see is powerful. Choose well.
p.s. I’ve been getting folksy with Cloud Cult lately, one of my better decisions.