Need a reminder of God’s goodness? Just look around.
My morning began in its usual way. The low-light of a sleepy weekday, my three teenagers filling water bottles, eating Pop-Tarts, asking me to sign one more permission slip. We made it out the door on time, which always feels like a minor miracle.
I watched the world wake up through the windshield of my minivan, the navy-blue skies receding into another bright beginning. All things new. This daily recognition of God, revealed through creation, is a moment of peace and presence before the day gains momentum. I stare into the ever-changing sky and it is impossible to not imagine God holding the brush.
Back home, I boil water for tea and scroll through the news; far-away wars with real-time consequences, political quarrels, illness, insults, hot-takes, and hate. It’s hard to reconcile both the beauty and brokenness each day holds. Often, our impulse is to cover our eyes, or turn our backs to the pain. What does it mean to care for the world from our small corners of belonging? Why does it matter to stay engaged even as the storms keep gathering and the ache of division becomes the drum-beat of our daily lives?
What are we supposed to do?
As always, our roadmap is Jesus, who shows us by example how to illuminate the world with God’s love, a warmth that pierces the darkest mornings.
His life details a sensory-rich narrative. We read in the Gospel of Luke about burning incense, chanting crowds, angel voices booming. Dusty roads, mangy shepherds, and a young girl, “obviously pregnant.” Heaven came down as a baby with dimpled hands and a dark swirl of hair. Before long, men were tracking the night sky, wide awake with wanting.
He grew into a man who was drawn to the messy ones, those most likely to be written off as unfit, unworthy, unable to properly blend in with the surrounding religious culture. Impulsive. Doubting. Competitive. Temperamental.
The world looked at John the Baptist and saw crazed and unconventional. Jesus saw a worthy protest, choosing him as one more line in the Galilean dust. His “official” ministry was beginning, each domino pitching into the next; story, scandal, mundane, and miracle.
It was John who plunged Jesus’ head into the water, upsetting authority and the cultural code. This is no mistake. What follows is sensory overload.
“As Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, ‘You are My dearly loved Son, and You bring Me great joy.'” (Mark 1:10-11 NLT)
He lived as One dearly loved.
He came to us as us, a Person with eyes, ears, a mouth, a nose, fingerprints and hair follicles. He cried. He feasted. He walked until His feet ached. He reached back after a long day and squeezed the tension from His own sun-weathered neck. He got goosebumps. He took naps. He felt alone sometimes, because He felt alive.
Looking out at the landscape of His life, taking it all in, He chose to really see people, particularly those hidden at the edges. He walked with His neighbors through the low-lands of loss and feasted with them when the sun came up anyway.
He experienced the world around Him by offering it His sincere attention. He’s asking the same of us.
“Pay close attention to what you hear,” Jesus tells His disciples in Mark 4:24 (NLT) “Keep watch and pray…” (Mark 14:38 NLT)
This is the work before us, as simple and unspectacular as it may be. We attentively experience the world around us and God’s glory and grace written in the clouds and on our streets. We trade our numb avoidance for true abundance.
Open windows offering the last traces of warm-enough air. A breeze stirs the curtains. Leaves crunch underfoot. Sunlight holds the last of the hot pink roses. Pine-Sol drifts from the bathroom, freshly scrubbed. Kids squeal at the park. Pears ripen in a bowl on the counter. A neighbor walks past my window, holding his young daughter’s hand, as a siren screams one street away. This is the world, the life, given for me.
Suffering. Celebration. Dinner at six. God’s goodness ricochets.
Shannan Martin, author of Start with Hello, The Ministry of Ordinary Places, and Falling Free, is a speaker and writer who found her voice in the country and her story in the city. Shannan works as a cook at The Window, a local non-profit dedicated to feeding its community. She and her family live as grateful neighbors in Goshen, Indiana.