A couple of weeks ago I was at an evening service at church, which is a rare thing since we don’t have one of those churches that has a Sunday morning & evening service and another on Wednesday. Nothing against any place that does, but we’re just not like that. When we have some large gathering any other time than Sunday morning, you know there’s something special going on, as was the case on this particular night.
Our pastor has recently returned from his first ever sabbatical (in 30 years! He was wayyyy overdue, I’d say!) and we as a fellowship are now reaping great rewards from that concentrated time he spent with God. We’ve been having some Sunday night “overflow” services, which is exactly what they are…a chance to get more of what we’d never have time for in our regular weekly meetings. So there we all were, drinking in all the challenge and inspiration that we could, and the discussion turned to making a list of the ways we know we’ve been changed since we met Jesus. I’m not even sure if that was the actual “title” of the list, if there had been one, but that was the way it was manifesting itself. So many people shared the evidence they have in their lives. Some said they remembered chasing after things so badly like success, wealth, prestige, etc… and that those things mean very little if anything to them now. One person mentioned that they were formerly dead and now they have life. Now, to some that can sound like a cliché, especially if you have some familiarity with the bible enough to know where those words come from in scripture, but truly it is an understatement. Others mentioned how they see people through God’s eyes rather than just looking on the outside now. There were many, many other comments presented as evidence too, and I wish I could remember them all.
But I do remember the thing that wasn’t on the list. The very first thing I thought of when challenged with the whole how do you know? question. I was going to share it but there were so many folks offering thoughts and our time together just never seems to be enough. So I’m sharing it now. How do I know? How do I know that Jesus is real and that I’ve been given a new Spirit to live by? How to I know I’ve had an encounter with the God who is real and has invited me into the grand story that He has always and forever been writing?
I know because now, I notice.
Thought I was gearing up for some big profound kinda business, there, didn’t ya?
Well, that’s really, truly it. I know that Jesus lives in me because ever since I turned my face toward Him, I notice things now. Endless multitudes of things.
I notice things about this world. I see all of creation as not just interesting accidents that make you go hmmm…. but as unique, artistic expressions of the most brilliant creative Mind that has ever been. I notice the fuzziness of a bumblebee, the swirl of a fingerprint, (really, we all get our own original?!) the never-ending variety of shapes and textures and depths I see in clouds on a daily basis. I notice the blending of colors in the abundant fall leaves all around me… watercolors only wish they could replicate it. I notice that there are zillions of species of birds and fish and bugs, even ones we haven’t discovered yet. Some that are microscopic and some that are enormous. I notice the things that seem perplexingly strange to me, like pitcher plants that digest insects, and patterns like the Fibonacci sequence that seem appear in everything from pine cones to plants to people. There’s an amazing concert of creation playing out all around me, all of it with a specific purpose. I breathe more deeply now, and I notice these things.
But most of all, I notice the people who are God’s creation. His masterpieces. I notice their faces, which are just storefronts to who and what they really are. I notice the incredible diversity in their hair, their skin, their hands, their voices. I notice how amazingly different we all are from one another, but how strikingly the same we can be. I notice the variations in our laughter….deep bellowing chuckles to shrill soprano snorts. I notice the thick eyelashes of my young students as I watch their eyes move across the page they they read, and I wonder who they will become someday. And the eyes…everyone’s eyes! How large and round or small and slanted they are….and more importantly, how they can light up in anticipation and can dart toward the ground in shame. I notice how they weep in hurt and disappointment, how they close slowly with a soft sigh of relief. I notice how everyone’s eyes are searching for the exact same thing….for something beautiful to fill them…for Someone beautiful to capture them. I notice how my own eyes have a light in them I never had before I met Jesus, and how nothing else even comes close to putting that same light there.
I notice other things about myself too, like how I am a part of this lovely creation, which means I was created for a purpose too. I notice that I’ve been given things, like the ability to encourage people, and that is an incredible privilege and a scary responsibility. I notice that I don’t always carry that responsibility out well. I notice that I am at my best when I am loving freely and allowing myself to be loved fully, and that it really does work like that. I notice that the harder I clench my fist to hold onto something, the less able I am to grasp anything else that may come my way. I notice that although I stammer and stutter my way through this life, it matters. My life matters, as does the life of every single other person around me, whether I like them/approve of them/extend love to them or not. I notice that my joy increases as I do extend love and it decreases substantially when I hold it back selfishly. I notice that things like compulsive shopping and worrying and lying and manipulating used to be regular parts of my life and that, because of Jesus shining that light through me, they really aren’t so much anymore. I notice that the more things I throw off that don’t matter, the more I can see that only one thing really does.
I notice that I actually care how I make other people feel now. (Maybe I should have started there. That right there says enough about how much I’ve been changed. I coulda saved about a thousand words!)
I notice that I don’t really have to look that far to see Jesus all around me….all around you. He’s always here. He’s always going to be here, and as long as we live, we have the chance to notice Him too.