3. Coming Alive

When you begin to see your life and everything else around you as a gift, you come alive to how things really are. You begin to live in the real world. What you see and recognise as a gift you then receive in the way that a gift is received. Your life becomes a kind of thanksgiving. The opposite of this is to take everything for granted, as if it were not a gift; as if there were no one to thank. This isn’t living according to how things really are.

There is a wonderful paradox here: if neither your own existence nor the world’s is owed to you, then your “poverty” is what makes you so rich - everything is a gift. You are surrounded by a sea of gifted existence.

When you begin to see your life and everything else around you as a gift, you come alive to how things really are. You begin to live in the real world.

Even the smallest details of creation speak to you about God, and there is enough in the smallest garden or backyard to give you reason for constant wonder. Those who are most likely not to have that experience - not to see the world as it actually is - are those in the biggest hurry and the most mobile. Those who have been slowed down or curtailed by some disability sometimes have the best view.

Noticing means standing in awe of each creature, all of whose very existence points to God.

God is in creation as the voice is in the song.
Look at the dance and you will see the Dancer.

(Anthony de Mello, SJ)

Noticing also means letting yourself be caught up in beauty. The beauty we find in nature, the beauty we create in music, song, and dance, and the beauty that belongs to love, family, loyalty, and faithfulness all seem to say to us: “this is not for nothing; this is only a glimpse of something more to come.”

It is not an exaggeration to say that through every detail of creation God “speaks” to us:

The Bible conceives of everything as created by God’s word, and so as actually being a word. In this world view every thing, every person, every situation is at its core a spelling out of God’s faithfulness calling for a response of faith on the hearer’s part. [“Let your every creature serve you: for you spoke, and they were made, you sent forth your spirit, and they were created; no one can resist your word” (Judith 16:14).]

Do not deny too quickly that you know what is meant by the poetic image, “God speaks.” Yet, don’t take my word for it either. Search your own awareness. We are talking about something that is easily missed, “a small, still voice,” easily drowned out by our own noises, something shy that wants to be befriended.

Only when we become ever so quiet inside do we sense in the smallest speck of reality a great Presence, both strange and familiar, waiting to meet us. Strange this Presence seems to us, because it differs from all else we know; at the same time, we seem to know it more intimately than anything else we ever knew. We dread its strangeness; we long for its intimacy. It is this Presence that looks at us, when we dare to expose ourselves “on the heart’s mountains,” and demands our transformation: “you must change.”

(David Steindl-Rast, A Listening Heart)

For Practice

  • Take time to look at a flower or a tree, and keep on looking. If it could speak, what might it want to say to you?
  • Next time you experience peace or beauty or love or belonging, notice how the experience feeds a deep longing, but never fully meets your need. What does this say to you about humankind’s longing for God?

For Prayer

Where can I go from your spirit,
or where can I flee from your face?
If I climb the heavens, you are there.
If I lie in the grave, you are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn
and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
even there your hand would lead me,
your right hand would hold me fast.
If I say: “Let the darkness hide me
and the light around me be night,”
even darkness is not dark for you
and the night is as clear as the day…

Psalm 139:7-12