“Consider the lilies of the field” - Matthew 6:28
Among the many things I love about the teaching of Jesus is His appeal to nature. Many of his greatest lessons come from the created world. That’s one of the reasons I love walking. It gets me outside, forces me to slow down, look, and consider.
Matthew 6, is a prime example. Jesus addresses the issue of anxiety, and draws on the birds of the air, and lilies of the field, to demonstrate the provision of our Heavenly Father, and the futility of worry.
Some of the greatest lessons in life require us to slow down, to stop what we are doing, and consider. Often this happens outside, but it can happen anywhere. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning has said:
“Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes.”
I had a truly life-changing experience one summer, in Kentucky. I was doing research on the campus of Asbury Theological Seminary. Preoccupied with my own thoughts, I walked into the “Dollar General Store” to purchase a few supplies. It was there, standing at the front door, in a hurry to get back to my own agenda, that God taught me a life lesson. It required me to stop, look, and consider. I hope you enjoy it!
I watched her hobble into the store. How could I help but notice? She was advanced in years, conservatively dressed and small in stature. Someone’s aunt, or grandmother, perhaps great-grandmother. I recalled my mother’s words, “It’s not polite to stare.” I dutifully taught the same principle to my own children with just as little effect.
This situation, however, was different. What harm could there be in staring? She could not possibly see my face, being so crippled that from the waist up she was virtually parallel to the floor. With awkward tilt of head she found her items on the shelf, painfully straining, reaching and finally dropping them into her shopping bag.
I pondered what life was like for this woman. She could not see blue skies, wispy clouds, glittering stars or harvest moon. On a clear day she could perhaps see the sun disappearing over the horizon. She could see luxuriant grass, collage of flowers, low lying shrubs, not majestic oaks or soaring eagles--rolling hills, not jagged peaks. So much of this amazing world is inaccessible from the waist down.
With the courage and persistence of a tri-athlete she shuffled to the till to pay for her things. I stood transfixed as she asserted will over uncooperative body. As she slowly turned towards the door, I opened it for her and stood sentry, feigning limitless patience. When at last she arrived, with the same awkward tilt of head she thanked me. And then she said four unforgettable words, “I like your sandals.”
My sandals? I was not even aware I was wearing sandals! I appreciated the compliment but felt rebuked in spirit. I enjoy good health. I am not disabled--at least not physically. Yet, how frequently I rush through my day’s activities, so caught up in my own pettiness that I fail to acknowledge the wonders of creation, pay scant attention to children, hardly notice those around me, let alone take time to pay a compliment?
I am privileged to live with unrestricted sight. And yet, how much do I truly see? How much do I miss due to self-preoccupation? Reflecting on that little lady with hobbling gait, awkward tilt of head and waist high perspective, I realize that I need to pause, breathe deeply and bend down. In doing so I discover another world, a delightful world, of playful children, and fragrant flowers. I see sandals.