Friday, October 2, 2009

No Ordinary Moments

In his book, Reaching for the Invisible God, author Philip Yancey writes (and this is a paraphrase) that there are no ordinary moments in life. Truthfully, my reality seems to be the opposite. Most of life is far from extraordinary. Days are filled with errands, commuting from one place to another, chores, shopping, casual conversations, etc. Seems to be pretty mundane stuff that fills most of my hours and weeks and months between the occasional significant events. However, Yancey suggests that to think of life in this way is to miss out on a great deal that is happening right under my nose. Truth is, says Yancey, every moment I live, and particularly every interaction of any sort that I have with another human being, is pregnant with amazing potential. Just like a plot in a movie, Yancey writes, it can be the smallest things, the “chance encounters”, which can turn things in a dramatic or unexpected direction.

I remember seven years ago after reading these words that my eyes were opened to see many things in a new light. I was more fully present, particularly in what I perceived as the mundane and unspectacular. I was attentive and open, and almost daily there seemed to be divine encounters and unexpected situations which were far form mundane. But it didn't last. I slipped back into the routine of life and switched on the autopilot.

Yesterday, something happened that has awakened my desire to live again more fully aware. It was a simple event that had “ordinary” written all over it. We got a call in the early afternoon about a copy machine that a business on the west side was disposing of, and we needed to let them know right away if we were interested. It wasn’t a planned trip, but a free copy machine for our office was too good to pass up. So Dave and I jumped on the M34 bus and headed across town. Seemed like a routine matter- check out the machine, and arrange for a time to pick it up.

The machine was great- worth $1000s, and immediately available. We just had to haul it back across town. We arranged to come back on Friday. That could have been it. Nothing too significant about this situation. Then Dave asked one question of the office manager before we left: “Are you ok?” A simple question- and one that had nothing to do with why we were there… (or, was getting a free copy machine all that this moment was about)?

Dave asked the question because it was clear from her face and her body language that everything was not okay. In response, she said “no”, and started to weep, as she steadied herself against her desk as if she was about to fall under the weight of grief. I can’t reveal specifics of what was going on, but when asked if we could pray for her, she welcomed it. We (who were strangers 5 minutes earlier) ended up with our arms around each other, praying as she sobbed. I stood with the $1000 copy machine on my right and my left arm draped across her shoulders- a woman who matters so much to God that no price could be affixed to her.

As I reflect on this, I realize that this was potentially a very ordinary event, just an errand concerning a piece of office equipment, But it was pregnant with potential that was unleashed because Dave was paying attention, saw something (someone) that mattered much more than the equipment, and asked one simple three word question. In one moment the plot of the story changed dramatically from "machine pick up" to "caring for an office manager".

Is it really possible to live my life always aware, always seeing beyond the routine? Probably not. But today reminded me again that Yancey was right. Life itself is extraordinary. People are extraordinary. And every in situation there is more going on for the person who knows what to look for.


Charlotte Kelly said...

Cool, we have a new copy machine? :) Just kidding. THanks for the MUCH NEEDED reminder. I believe Gramma Kate has a similar post about finding the extraordinary in the mundane. If only we could have those eyes every day!

kathy said...

Thank you for the reminder. I'm encouraged and challenged.