What I Saw & How I Saw It (A Reflection On Travels & The Ways We See)
I’ve been on vacation – or “holiday” as they call it where my family and I have been – for the past month. For the last two years, we’ve been dreaming about, saving for, and planning this trip.
We had places we wanted to go and specific sights we wanted to see.
Two years of planning builds a lot of anticipation. We were stinkin’ excited to go on this European adventure!
On a daily basis, our eyes were wide with wonder. A number of times on this trip I whispered “My God” – not in a flippant or take-the-name-of-the-Lord-in-vain kind of way, but in holy reverence and awe. What I saw caused me to worship the Creator.
At home, we regularly do this thing at the dinner table where we answer the question: “Where did you see God today?” There are no rules or expectations, no right answers or wrong answers. Shari frequently mentions birds or something she saw in nature. Ashah will often say something about a child or baby. I usually say something about solitude or reading.
I realize this discussion starter thing we do seems a little corny… but I’ve grown to appreciate what it does for us. It makes us mindful, attentive. It helps put words to our experiences and forces us to share them.
It causes us to pay more attention as we go about our days – because a regular part of our life is answering this little question “Where did you see God today?”
Some of the highlights of our travels, for me, include: hiking up Storr on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, walking around Giant’s Causeway in Ireland, standing on the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, attending Life Church in Belfast Ireland, spending time with my relatives in Scotland, waking up surrounded by fog and fjords and waterfalls in Norway, and walking around in the lava fields of Iceland.
In these unique and beautiful places, I saw God. I saw His jaw-dropping creation. I saw His people bearing His image and likeness. I saw with fresh eyes, eager eyes, excited eyes, amazed and in-awe eyes.
I also saw God in the pages of books. During our travels I read Loving our Enemies: Reflections on the Hardest Commandment by Jim Forest, Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human by David Benner, and Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom by John O’Donohue.
In John O’Donohue’s book, there’s a brief section about “Styles of Vision.” Here’s an excerpt:
Ask yourself, “What way do I behold the world?”
To the fearful eye, all is threatening. When you look toward the world in a feafrul way, all you see and concentrate on are things that can damage and threaten you. The fearful eye is always besieged by threat.
To the greedy eye, everything can be possessed. Greed is one of the powerful forces in the modern Western world. It is sad that a greedy person can never enjoy what they have, because they are always haunted by that which they do not yet possess. Greed is poignant because it is always haunted and emptied by future possibility; it can never engage presence. This greed is now poisoning the earth and impoverishing its people. Having has become the sinister enemy of being.
To the judgmental eye, everything is closed in definitive frames. When the judgmental eye looks out, it sees things in terms of lines and squares. It is always excluding and separating, and therefore it never sees in a compassionate or celebratory way. To see is to judge.
To the resentful eye, everything is begrudged. People who have allowed the canker of resentment into their vision can never enjoy who they are or what they have. They are always looking out toward others with resentment. The resentful eye lives out of its poverty and forgets its own inner harvest.
To the indifferent eye, nothing calls or awakens. Indifference is one of the hallmarks of our times. Without even knowing it, indifference can place you beyond the frontiers of compassion, healing, and love. When you become indifferent, you give all your power away. Your imagination becomes fixated in the limbo of cynicism and despair.
To the inferior eye, everyone else is greater. Others are more beautiful, brilliant, and gifted than you. The inferior eye is always looking away from its own treasures. It can never celebrate its own presence and potential. The inferior eye is blind to its secret beauty. The human eye was never designed to look up in a way that inflates the other to superiority, nor to look down, reducing the other to inferiority.
To the loving eye, everything is real. This art of love is neither sentimental nor naive. Such love is the greatest criterion of truth, celebration, and reality. Kathleen Raine, a Scottish poet says that unless you see a thing in the light of love, you do not see it at all. Love is the light in which we see… Love is the light in which we see each thing in its true origin, nature, and destiny.
If we could look at the world in a loving way, then the world would rise up before us full of invitation, possibility, and depth.
The loving eye can even coax pain, hurt, and violence toward transfiguration and renewal. The loving eye is bright because it is autonomous and free. It can look lovingly upon anything. The loving vision does not become entangled in the agenda of power, seduction, opposition, or complicity. Such vision is creative and subversive. It rises above the pathetic arithmetic of blame and judgment and engages experience at the level of its origin, structure, and destiny.
Vision is central to your presence and creativity.
* * * *
Thanks for taking the time to read – and for allowing me to share how I’m seeing God.
I hope you see Him today in surprising and unexpected ways!
One last thing (feel free to ignore because I know there’s nothing more boring than being forced to look at someone’s vacation pictures), here are some pictures…
Gorgeous photos. Inspiring thoughts. Welcome home.
Beautiful words paired with beautiful pictures. Especially love the picture of Shari – I love how it captures her wonder & appreciation of God’s Creation around her.
I wanted to be sofisticated and aloof but there’s nothing more uncool than being a mom. So now I’m free to be giddy at the crazy beautiful moon (like last night) or the way the trees change colors with the seasons.
When I see my friend write something and it’s obvious that talent in people is nothing less than divine spark.
I’m okay with being totally uncool and overly eager and vulnerable because I was never cool to begin with. Might as well take it in stride.
I love the picture of fog and fjords. It looks comforting.