LENTEN CONNECTIONS: Focusing on God’s presence

Just over a year ago, I had the opportunity to take a day retreat out by Cochrane.  It wasn’t an organized retreat; I simply made the time to get away for the day on my own and it was wonderful.  The sun was shining, the snow was fresh and the air was mountain crisp.  As I wandered around the property that day, I discovered a lovely little tree house to warm up in.  I climbed the stairs, entered and began to scan my surroundings; it was a quaint little space that had me immediately reliving childhood memories.  As I wrapped myself in a quilt and sat down, my attention was captured by a cut-glass window in the door.  I admired the simple geometric shapes and the way the light was reflected and refracted as it passed through the beveled edges.  Now and again, a soft white flash of snow would catch my eye as it fell off one of the spruce trees outside.  Eventually I began journalling, sketching, reading, and praying, but over and over my attention was drawn back to that intriguing piece of glass.

Like the slow but ever-increasing light of dawn, I gradually became aware of a truth in that window:  I could not focus on both the glass AND the trees at the same time.  It was one or the other.  Yes, I could be aware of one while focusing on the other but never could I see both in perfect clarity.  As this realization made its way from my head to my heart, ultimately what filled me was the recognition of the power of choice.

The Israelites had a choice:  lift their eyes to the bronze serpent on the pole, or be killed by the live serpents at their feet.  Peter had a choice:  remain focused on Jesus, or be overwhelmed by the winds and waves surrounding him.  Mary Magdalene had a choice in the tomb:  open her eyes to the sound of her Savior’s voice, or risk letting her grief and inner turmoil keep her from seeing the truth. Even Jesus, perfect and holy, had a choice.  It lasted but a split second, the space of but a breath, as he prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

How often do I get so wrapped up in the chaos of my own fingerprint-smeared, dirt-splattered, rock-chipped life that I am barely aware of God’s presence in my day-to-day?  I remain focused on the difficulties surrounding me when I could instead be shifting my gaze, seeking but a blurry glimpse of the beautiful vista that comes with placing my trust completely upon God’s promises.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12 )

Something happens when I choose to take a deep breath in a stressful time. Something happens when I move my gaze to the landscape barely outlined through that dark window.

The cracks and reflections and dirt that stain my view?

They lose focus.  They lose significance.

The stains shrink. Hope grows.


Prayer: Heavenly Father, I thank you.  In this season of Lent, I am reminded of the importance of taking the time to reflect on all You have done for me.  All too often, I allow my attention to be held by this world.  My worries, my sorrow, my pain, my worldly responsibilities only serve to cloud the glass of my life, often making my own reflection the easiest thing for me to focus on. Today may I instead choose to focus on You and on the sacrifice Jesus made for us all.  He spilled his own precious blood that I may know you personally; a priceless gift of grace You quietly hold out for me to accept.

It is beyond comprehension but I accept that for now, I know only in part.  For now, I rest in simply being fully known; knowing that one beautiful day, all will be made clear when we meet face to face. By way of Jesus Christ, your only Son, I patiently and excitedly await that glorious day.  Amen


Contributed by Julie Lee