Taking time to see the extraordinary

Altar Guild member Cathy Loomis was in the building last Friday morning, getting things set up for our Sunday worship, when she saw a most marvelous sight. 

She was standing back by the organ. There’s a plexiglass pane in front of the pipes, presumably to protect them. As she looked, she realized that when you’re standing right in front of that pane of glass, it captures a beautiful reflection of the sun streaming through the stained glass window in the wall opposite it, behind the altar. 

The image of the cross and the stained glass superimposed on the organ pipes took her breath away. In fact, she was so moved by the sight, she took a photo of it. 

Why, she wondered, had she never seen this before? How could she have missed it? It’s true that you have to be standing in just the right place, and when you’re in that place, you have to remember to look. But now that she’s seen it, she won’t forget to pause and enjoy the sight again and again. There’s something about seeing the reflectionof the cross and window, as opposed to just turning around and seeing them directly, that is imminently satisfying. 

I had a similar experience once myself. I was, for many years, a parishioner at St. John’s Cathedral, and spent many hours in St. Martin’s Chapel there. There are two very large paintings on the wall in the chapel, but from my preferred pew – and yes, I nearly always liked to sit in the same place – the sunlight streaming in through the windows cast such a glare on the paintings, I had no idea what they were paintings of. I just couldn’t see them clearly.

One day, on a whim, I moved to a different spot in the chapel. It was a spot in the shadows. And to my amazement, I discovered from this new spot I could make out precise details about the paintings. 

When I was in the sunlight, I couldn’t clearly see the paintings. When I was in the shadows, I could. The paintings themselves never moved. What changed was my perspective.

That is so often the way we experience God’s love. It is there all along, unmoving. But we are either blind to it, or we forget to stop and look for it. Or it only really becomes clear to us when we’ve moved into a shadowy place. In the darkness, we can see some things we cannot easily see in the light. 

This week, let me encourage you to pay attention to the shadowy places and to the places on the periphery. Take notice of what you might have overlooked before. You may see something that will take your breath away. Enjoy, and know that you are loved.