By Revd Phil Wales
With the further easing of restrictions in recent days I ventured a little further afield to keep a promise to meet a colleague and friend. Quite some time had passed since we’d last seen one another ‘in real life’ (or ‘IRL’ as it’s now fashionably referred to in social media). Throughout the spring our contact had been limited to the virtual and online worlds that many of us have, through necessity, inhabited (with varying degrees of ease or discomfort).
I sat in a splendid hillside café garden which was bursting with colour awaiting his arrival. A robin landed close by, no more than an arm’s length away and we studied each other intently. My tiny red breasted observer seemed in no particular hurry to fly away.
Filled with joy I then did something which would have been impossible until comparatively recently, but which many of us now do instinctively. I reached for my smartphone. Startled, the bird flew off making hardly a sound as its wings lifted it quickly upwards. The moment that I thought I could hold on to and share had gone as quickly as it had arrived.
It was foolishness on my part of course. What I had, unthinkingly, been trying to do was to capture the experience; not just the sight, but the sound and even the imagined touch of this wonderful creature.
Our senses are what connect us to God and God’s world. Yet both our desire for more and our lack of attention to, and thankfulness for, what we have been given may easily get in the way of experiencing God’s world fully. It is as if, in desiring more, we do not wholly trust in God to provide for our needs. Our attention moves away from the present, sensed, experience.
It is this focus on, even preoccupation with, the ‘not yet’ which obscures the ‘now’ which Jesus speaks of during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6.25-27):
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life.
As the robin flew away, my friend came into view. We walked, we talked, and we soaked in the wonderful land and seascape. And we allowed the beauty of God’s world around us to infuse our souls and parted thanking God for the moments we had sensed together.
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise
William Blake (1757-1827)