Look at the featured picture for this post on the home page: a person stands looking at a glorious sunset. How does it make you feel? What memories does it stir up? What glorious sunset or sunrise have you seen that has stayed with you and lifted or soothed your spirit? Scenes like this rarely leave us unaffected. Even a person who doesn’t feel particularly “spiritual” is moved by scenes of nature’s beauty or power. For someone who is spiritually aware, it can have a deep meaning and power.
What do you see? How does it make you feel? What deep places can you touch?
It’s just a couple of stones, for goodness sake! A small, broken one and a larger oval shaped one. A couple of grey rocks.
Here’s what you might see, though: a woman kneeling on the ground, the large stone before her. In her hands she holds the smaller stone. Leaning forward, she moves the stone back and forth over the grains she has placed there, over and over again until the grains have become powder. She sweeps them into a bowl, scatters some more grain, and continues her work. She is making flour for her family’s bread. She’s preparing the grain she has gathered so it can be baked and made delicious and nourishing, feeding the people she loves. It is hard work, but she does it every day, day after day. Some days her shoulders hurt. Sometimes the rough stone grazes her skin and the powdery flour flies in her face. Sometimes, before she is done, the sun has moved and she is in shade no longer.
But still she does it, day after day, month after month. A chore, work, but also her offering of care and support of the life of those around her. Around her, children play, other women sit grinding grain alongside; maybe the men have returned from the hunt with meat for the whole village.
This is her place of offering and sacrifice, of work and ministry, of hard work and skillful care.
To live and see spiritually means allowing ourselves to see beyond what it is simply there in front of us. It means we practise, form the habit, of seeing beyond and behind, looking at the stories that might be there in what we see, looking at everyday moments as filled with possibility and meaning.
We won’t see everything this way. We won’t see this way all the time. But with practise, by opening ourselves to the Spirit, from time to time we will see where God is at work, where people reflect God’s vision for the world, where the stories and lives of other people, and even other creatures, fit with our stories, ways in which we all live surrounded by the life and arms and vision of God.
As we grow in living spiritually, we are drawn beyond just ourselves; we come to understand our connections with all creation and thus with the Creator. We see more than just a couple of stones.
(The picture is of a saddle quern from the neolithic era in Europe.)