Put in My Place
Occasionally, I need to be put in my place again. It’s quiet at 7:30 a.m. The early sun is casting a yellow hue over the park on my way to work. A crow probes for breakfast in a bit of trash tossed to the gutter, and a woman in Capri’s crosses the street with her dog on a long leash. I don’t mind slowing down. It feels right. The normal work day angst has subsided this morning. Long shadows reach out as if summoning me. Suddenly I realize I’m overwhelmed with love for this place, and for my place in it. There’s a harmony with my environment I haven’t felt for a long time.
Why is this happening? I got very little sleep last night, and normally that makes me grumpy. Clearly, the Spirit is at work here.
The only thing different from other mornings was that I actually had twenty minutes with my wife over breakfast. We’re normally on different schedules, but today she was there offering me a fresh pastry for breakfast, joining with me, the news turned off, and neither of us checking email or watches. Just talking, whimsically and mundanely for the most part, but talking. About the day ahead; about an intriguing story we’d heard; about some pigeons she’d interrupted while they were “doing it” near the bakery. She felt bad about disturbing them, couldn’t get it out of her head, and wanted to tell me about it. We talked about repainting our drab living room walls. We had a minor disagreement about paint color, and then we kissed each other before I went out the door.
Those twenty minutes together made for the most satisfying morning I’ve had for a long time. But there was nothing particularly earth-jarring about any of it. Except that we were actually relating, like we were made to do, instead of “connecting” without joining, “facebooking” (is that a verb now) without facing, and “friending” without befriending. How embarrassing that I have to actually remind myself of this most basic human reality, and that I find I need to tell you—that we were made to share our lives, starting with the most mundane parts of it, to be in physical contact, to be with one another. How odd to suddenly “get” this, but how simple and beautiful.
These realizations hit me only after crossing the neighborhood on the way to work. It made me look at my turf with a fresher, more grateful awareness: the sunlight, the crow in the trash, the dog-walker and dog, and the shadows. Like falling in love for the first time, I felt reconciled again to my place after a long absence.
We are creatures placed in a garden, in our various niches of that garden. People with people in our places, as one whole making up Creation. Separate from each other, we cannot be reconciled to our places, but when we are in love with each other, we can be in love with our environment.
And love is not blind. Only in right relationship to each other do we see the world and each other clearly, with fresh eyes. Love does not mean that we view the world through rose tinted glasses any more than we see one anther that way.
There is both realism and transcendence in this vision. Our best places are littered with garbage, and our best relationships are riddled with conflicts. But when love visits unexpectedly, we are enabled to receive each other and our places just as they are. It’s good to be put back in our places again.