PHOTO BY RACHEL SCHOENEMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
Their feet tangled together, baby blue high tops and pink ankle socks in sequined slip-ons. Their heads dipped to share a secret as the band played a song I knew well. Squinting his eyes shut, the boy in front crooned "Open the eyes of my heart Lord, Open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you.”
I sat beside my niece for "special friend day," and as we sat in chapel together, I had the rare opportunity of enjoying time free from my two daughters. In the peaceful moment, I absorbed every detail like dry soil.
But as we asked "open the eyes of my heart, Lord," I realized that God was in our midst. Because the kingdom of God was with us, five feet above the ground in these seven-year-olds with feet too big, and grown-up teeth, uncertain smiles, and excited, stumbling steps. Too often I wait for God to show up around the corner, instead of finding Him right in front of me.
Too often I wait for God to show up around the corner, instead of finding Him right in front of me.
I look at my niece and her friend. I remember when friendship was made of simple things like secrets, and giggles, and swapping snacks at lunch. How easily we adults complicate it with insecurities, and judgment, and boundaries that we construct around ourselves.
How easily I find reasons to rush through my moments in a harried haze with a list of chores and to-dos, instead of opening my eyes to the kingdom of God that's right in front of me in baby coos and delighted laughter; the smell of jasmine and strong coffee; in dancing to a good song in the middle of the grocery store and finding rocks on the sidewalk.
When we look at God, we realize that He reaches us through simple means that are real, and right in front of our faces. Through the trees He teaches us His timing through seasons that reveal a cycle of living, of dying, of being pruned, and bearing fruit. He teaches us His truth through simple means of bread, wine and water. He made the entire universe and yet He took the time to craft each of us uniquely and intricately from our little toes to each eyelash.
Our world teaches us to strive and scrape and rush and push, to earn and accumulate and achieve; but when we live with our eyes and hearts open to each passing moment, God teaches us a slower pace that relies more on what He will do, and less on what we can accomplish. When we rely on God's provision, then we can be more like the trees, and the birds, and the flowers, waiting for His nourishment, and trusting in His timing to reveal His creation through us.
I look at my seven-year-old niece who is often in a hurry to grow up. She can't wait to have a phone, to wear nail polish and lipgloss, to carry a purse, and become a teenager. So often I remind her to slow down and enjoy jumping rope and learning cartwheels, to savor every art project, and class party. As she skips ahead, I see all the lessons she still needs to learn before she can take on the responsibilities of a teen. But then, I watch her with her best friend, trying to pick each other up, giggling at inside jokes and funny faces, and I realize, I am just like her, living moment to moment, yet rushing ahead to the next big thing. As I remind her to appreciate the life before her, God whispers a reminder to me, that I have much to learn before I try to plow ahead.
How easily we believe that we still haven't found God's kingdom, that we still don't know the fullness of God's truth. We squeeze our eyes shut singing "Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord." But when we open our eyes in the moment, we see life lived in the process of growing. In seven-year-old kids, growing into the people that God created them to be, but living in God's fullness in that very moment.
God numbered our days, but He parcels them out second by second--so that we can have open eyes and open hearts in each precious moment, and so that we can see His kingdom in our very midst.
"For you are all children of light, children of the day.
We are not of the night or of the darkness."
1 Thessalonians 5:5