I don’t know if it’s happened to you, but sometimes something as simple as a word can come to you and turn your whole life upside down.
Or maybe it makes everything somehow more “right”.
It’s the moment you discover that the strange ache you’ve carried with you all your life has a word, and that word somehow gives it context, and allows you to breathe in a fresh way.
It was 1996, I believe. I was sitting in Jerry Root’s class at Wheaton College and he said the word. It was used often by Lewis and oozes through his writings – and it describes something I had innately sensed my whole life, but never had a way to describe it. This started a life long fascination with how to fold this perspective into my daily life.
I know – I’m taking forever to get to it. I feel a little vulnerable here – kind of like that kid on the baseball field who is chasing a butterfly when a fly ball is coming her way.
Try wrapping your tongue around that one. It’s kinda delicious, dontcha think? Makes a great scrabble word – although I have yet to find an opportunity to use it. And don’t try to google it … there’s not a whole lot out there besides a sterile and boring dictionary definition about the essence of a thing. I’m going to lean on Lewis to explain this a bit better:
…”Jenkins seemed to be able to enjoy everything, even ugliness. I learned from him that we should attempt a total surrender to whatever atmosphere was offering itself at the moment; in a squalid town, seek out those very places where its squalor rose to grimness and almost grandeur, on a dismal day to find the most dismal and dripping wood, on a windy day to seek the windiest ridge. There was not Betjemannic irony about it; only a serious, yet gleeful, determination to rub one’s nose in the very quiddity of each thing, to rejoice in its being (so magnificently) what it was.” (Surprised by Joy)
This comes alive every time you stop to admire the beautiful intricacy of a spiderweb – before removing it from the corner of the living room… again. Or tilt your face up as you walk to the car during an unexpected rain storm – letting yourself feel the cool wetness running down your cheeks. When the option is hide your face while you get wet or throw out your arms and glory in it, what will you do?
Every time a firefly makes you catch your breath with wonder. (I mean, it’s a bug… with a toosh… that glows! Come on!!) This would also be an good time to take a little rabbit trail and listen to the song “Fireflies” by Owl City. https://youtu.be/psuRGfAaju4
Piper puts it like this: “Lewis gave me an intense sense of the “realness” of things. The preciousness of this is hard to communicate. To wake up in the morning and be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the sheer being of things (“quiddity” as he calls it). He helped me become alive to life. He helped me see what is there in the world—things that, if we didn’t have, we would pay a million dollars to have, but having them, ignore. He made me more alive to beauty. He put my soul on notice that there are daily wonders that will waken worship if I open my eyes. (Don’t Waste Your Life)
I don’t know what your personal world looks like right now. But I’m guessing it looks different. Some of you are stuck home, getting bored and restless. Some of you are on the front lines, working those long shifts at the hospital, stocking grocery shelves, or trouble- shooting for your employees who need to keep getting paid, perhaps. I know there’s a lot of different feelings. And I know I can’t fix it – and that’s the hardest part of it all. That helpless feeling.
So we do all we can … but when the room gets quiet and the anxiety tries to creep in – the fears about what next week or next month might look like. What the bank account will look like. That haunting loneliness that sets in – the racing thoughts that hit when it’s too quiet around you. What do we do then?
We live this moment fully. That’s really all we have, isn’t it? That cup of coffee – the warm blanket. The sound of your kids laughing – or the sound of your kids fighting. It’s the sound of your kids – let the smile flicker across your face. The rain that won’t stop – watch the way it trickles down the window – wonder at the beauty reflected in that fleeting moment. See if you can find the many layers of grey that pile up in the sky on the gloomiest day of the week. The pile of laundry to fold – again… let the warm smell of clean clothes envelop you. Just for a moment.
Let the adventure wrap itself around you – even if it stays mainly in your living room. Find the fingerprints of God all around you – He’s showing Himself in all the little places, and it’s breathtaking. Let’s curl our toes in the warm mud of this different place we’re all in and find out what God’s up to.
“”We must smell and, as Chesterton said, marvel at the God who thought up noses. Feel the texture-filled world and let sun, wind, and rain wash our faces.” – Jon Bloom
“Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them to drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light, we see light” Psalm 35:7-10
Every Moment Holy – Doug McKelvey
Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren