Arthur Boers’ Living into Focus (now featured at the Patheos Book Club) is a delightful invitation to personal transformation. Boers recognizes the spiritual challenges of twenty-first century living and suggests a variety of ways to experience greater meaning, peace of mind, and personal depth. Now, I am someone who works hard and prays hard – I also play hard at times! I meditate nearly an hour a day, walk three to six miles a day, keep a prayer list, and practice distant reiki healing touch as part of my intercessory prayer discipline. But, these days I have a new focal spiritual practice – seeing the world through the eyes of a toddler.
Just today, my grandson and I spent nearly ninety minutes in pursuit of a garbage truck, watching airplanes overhead, noticing flags and clocks, following the path of birds, and observing construction vehicles. These are the things that inspire my eighteen month old grandson. He also loves stars and the moon. All of these are simple things, often overlooked, seen as nuisances, or even annoyances when we are stuck behind a school bus or garbage truck on our way to work. But, to a toddler these are signs of divine presence – a bus is more than a bus, a garbage truck contains infinite mysteries, birds overhead have a story to tell, and the stars above reveal the energy of creation.
When my grandson and I are on the hunt, which is often virtually all day, there are no small things and unimportant encounters. As a matter of fact, everyone he meets – the bus driver, the construction worker, the sanitation man, the clerk at the store – is infinitely interesting and, as a result of his interest, usually friendly and ready to tell the story of their work and share something about themselves. It could be his Paul Newman blue eyes, but I suspect it’s his interest for life as it unfolds, utterly open and without judgment or sense of superiority or inferiority. We have told him great things about President Obama, but I suspect that he believes the garbage truck driver as important as our president in the betterment of the world!
My grandson is an expert in kataphatic spirituality, the belief that all things and all people reveal the holy. Toddlers are natural mystics, who invite their elders to be mystics, too. For him, every person he meets radiates interest and value as he lives the world through the spirit of the children’s song:
Every little soul must shine, must shine!
Every little soul must shine, must shine!
What is amazing to me is that my grandson’s approach to life goes with me wherever I go. I have always been someone who saw wonder in small things, but now I follow every plane in the sky, stop to watch geese, ducks, and crows, notice the colors on trucks, and reflect on the moon’s shape every evening. My grandson has taught me another way to experience God’s omnipresence – to find holiness in human artifact, human work, noise and hubbub, as well as in the wonders of nature.
I am grateful that I can spend a day or two each week with my grandson. I am thankful for what I have learned on my knees playing with a toddler and seeing the world through his eyes. As Jesus said, you have be like a child to experience the realm of God and we elders need to act on our experiences with our grandchildren to insure that their lives always remain filled with spontaneous beauty, love, and wonder. We need to reclaim the realm of God in small wonders and acts of loving kindness that bring beauty and joy to this good earth. Together, we have discovered that whole earth is full of God’s glory and every moment is a call to adventure.
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, pastor, and author of twenty two books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study, and The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age. His most recent text is Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church to be released in January. But, above all, he seeks to share good news in ways that transform lives and heal the planet. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.