It’s the little things in life: coffee and hot breakfast in the mornings, telling a high schooler that the marshmallow she meticulously toasted for you in the fireplace made the greatest s’more ever and watching her light up, going Christmas shopping in a cute little town with your cousin, seeing the White Mountains on a chilly late afternoon run.
This shirt may seem cheesy but it actually takes courage and mental training to focus on the good in the little things. At least it does for me. So I will wear this shirt proudly, as a mission statement and manifesto.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
We were trying to leave a work function a lot early, and a little gracefully, by sneaking out the back staircase. The event was in a two-level function room (one of those “innovative” designs that Kendall Square companies like so much); we were on the 10th floor while our coats were on the 11th. Conscientious people who actually wanted to hear the speakers were sitting on the open staircase in the center of the room, so rather than clamber over these rapt listeners, we figured we would climb one flight using the inconspicuous stairwell, grab our coats, and make our stealthy getaway on the elevator.
The flaw in the plan? The stairwell locks. And no amount of me waving my paper guest badge in front of the keypad would open it.
We made our way down ten flights of stairs, into the parking garage, back into the building lobby where we checked in once again with the strict security guards who demanded to see our valid IDs, and again into the function room to get our coats and leave – a little less early and lot less gracefully than we’d hoped.
Once we’d made it outside, I was in one of those silly moods (probably due to our breathless getaway) where anything that pops into my mind is likely to come out of my mouth unfiltered. For whatever reason, I blurted, “So I have this vague memory of talking about Parks and Recreation with two guys and a girl recently, but I cannot remember who the conversation was with!” Had my filters been working properly, I wouldn’t have made this comment since I doubted my friend could help me with this problem.
But it turns out that she could. “Is this a joke?” she asked. “That was at the brunch you had with me, Sean, and Kyle two days ago!”
“Oh yeah!” I exclaimed. “You see, I definitely have MS!”
“Memory loss is only one sign of MS. You could just as easily have early onset Alzheimer’s,” she responded helpfully.
Upon further reflection, I am giving myself a different diagnosis. I’ve noticed that I tend to spend enormous amounts of mental energy reliving moments and interactions that worry or upset me, as though by replaying them endlessly I might be able to change the ending. But just as Romeo and Juliet will always remain star-crossed lovers headed to their graves, my endless mental analysis is never going to change particular chapters of my life.
Perhaps the biggest downside of rehashing negative scenes is that it leaves very little time or space to relive the good ones – particularly those characterized by simple, quiet beauty that require no analysis. They just are.
Having forgotten the specific topics of conversation we’d had at brunch is, apparently, a deep compliment. If that brunch had been any better, I’d probably have forgotten it had happened at all.
But it’s not a compliment I want to keep giving because the world doesn’t supply an endless stream of affirmation, laughter, and simple goodness. It’s not because God isn’t good, but it’s because the world isn’t heaven. We only get little, often fleeting, glimpses of how things should be. I have to hold onto these moments consciously and remember the promise they hold, especially during the darker times in life.
A few weeks ago, I was walking along the Charles River, on Memorial Drive heading west. In typical fashion, I was charging ahead quickly, determinedly, even though I had nowhere in particular I had to be.
Up ahead of me, I saw a man who had stepped off the path and was staring past me at the sky. My eyes flickered toward his for just a second, but it was enough for him to stop me.
“Look at the quality of light behind you,” he said.
Turning in the direction he was facing, I saw the Boston skyline transformed to gold by the low angle of winter sunlight. It was beautiful. So beautiful that I didn’t even know how to tell the man what it meant to me that he’d gotten me to notice something I would otherwise have missed.
I want to remember those comfortable, fun conversations with friends, and I want to slow down and notice the beauty around me. I want to stop replaying scenes of darkness and instead focus on the quality of light that reflects God’s endless, pure, and perfect light.
And that’s really the point of this blog: to take note of the small moments, the music that touches something deep inside me, the articles that inspire me, the thoughts and realizations that sustain me for minutes or miles. When the days turn dark, I’ll have a record of the Light.
Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning. A cleft has opened in the pitiless walls of the world, and we are invited to follow our great Captain inside. The following Him is, of course, the essential point.