ABOUT FAITH: Con­sider the lilies

The Covington News - - Religion -

I re­cently came across a blog that said “Live each day like it’s your last, and one day you’ll be right.” Some­one might counter, “I live each day like I have all the time in the world, and so far, I’ve been right ev­ery time.” Both of these ob­ser­va­tions are cor­rect, but we rec­og­nize the wis­dom in the first and the folly in the sec­ond. Time well spent is time cher­ished; time poorly spent leaves us with a stock­pile of re­gret.

Time is valu­able, whether spent in work, con­ver­sa­tion, con­tem­pla­tion, or even wait­ing. But the value of time can be de­cep­tive. Con­sider who in the fol­low­ing case was mak­ing the best and most use of their time.

I once found my­self sit­ting with a group of men at a shop­ping mall. The com­mon thread among us was that we were all wait­ing for our fe­male com­pan­ions to fin­ish shop­ping. One el­derly man was nap­ping; a younger man was ap­par­ently trans­ported to some vir­tual world dis­played on his hand­held elec­tronic game. I was read­ing.

Many of you would ar­gue that it was ob­vi­ously the women shop­ping who were most pro­duc­tive. But we should not rush to judg­ment. Each of these ac­tiv­i­ties could be a good or poor use of time, depend­ing on the con­text.

Maybe the women were wast­ing their money on bad pur­chases. Maybe the younger man was test­ing a new prod­uct and giv­ing valu­able feed­back to the man­u­fac­turer. Maybe the nap­per was recharg­ing so he would have the en­ergy to spend with his grand­chil­dren later. My read­ing could be friv­o­lous or pro­found, depend­ing on what I was read­ing or how well I at­tended to it. It is all rel­a­tive, as Ein­stein ob­served.

My vote goes to a fourth man, who sat, hands in lap, watch­ing the crowds. He smiled at a lit­tle girl hold­ing her mother’s hand. He of­fered his seat to a young woman strug­gling with pack­ages and a stroller. When he no­ticed me watch­ing him, he said, “Isn’t this great? Look at all this stuff we have to choose from! When I was a kid, 90 per­cent of this had not been in­vented yet!”

To my way of think­ing, he was mak­ing ex­cel­lent use of his time for sev­eral rea­sons. He en­gaged the peo­ple around him with kind­ness and con­sid­er­a­tion. He shared his con­ta­gious pos­i­tive at­ti­tude with me, and changed the way I was ob­serv­ing things around me. He chose to re­late to those around him, rather than iso­late him­self, co­cooned against a busy and hec­tic world. Mostly, though, he was in the moment, present and alert, while the rest of us, even the shop­pers, were glid­ing through life on au­topi­lot.

One year our fam­ily vacation took us across a vast desert in Ari­zona. As I took in the breath­tak­ing beauty around me, I re­al­ized that I was alone in my ap­pre­ci­a­tion of it. Ev­ery­one else in the car was ei­ther read­ing or sleep­ing or oc­cu­pied with a game.

“Wake up!”, I shouted. “Isn’t this beau­ti­ful?”

From the back of the car came a sleepy re­ply: “Are we there yet?”

“Look at the birds of the air,” Je­sus said. “They nei­ther sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heav­enly Fa­ther feeds them. … Con­sider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they nei­ther toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these” (Matthew 6:26-29).

Je­sus was teach­ing us not to worry about things that do not mat­ter, but we should not rush to the moral and pass too quickly over the man­ner of his teach­ing. “Look at the birds. Con­sider the lilies.” The les­son comes from be­ing present in the moment, mind­ful of the things around us. Je­sus was cer­tainly a scholar of the scrip­tures, but many of his teach­ings came from sim­ple ob­ser­va­tions of things that oth­ers miss. In our ef­forts to be more like Je­sus, per­haps we can start with to­day, awake to ev­ery per­son and thing God places in our path.

Brian Dale is the pas­tor of Allen Me­mo­rial Methodist Church in Ox­ford.

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