There is a real tendency for many of us to get caught up in planning, visioning, thinking toward the future. I know that I get caught up in this mind set quite often. I start leaning toward the future, anticipating what’s to come, worrying about the “what if.”
This isn’t a bad thing necessarily. In fact, many churches remain stale because they never do the important work of thinking about the future. Certainly, I have been trying to help us envision a new way of being, to live into our future.
The problem comes when we live so far in the future that we fail to notice what’s going on around us in the hear and now. We fail to appreciate the moment, the experiences of God’s grace that come in the mundane. It’s easy (especially for those of us with short attention spans) to always be looking down the path, and to totally miss what’s right beside the car.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk who has written extensively on the relationship between Christianity and Buddhism. Now before you go into a panic, don’t think that I’m saying that I’m going to become a Buddhist or advocate that we all adopt a Buddhist lifestyle. Yet, Hanh has much to tell us about being present to God’s glory and beauty.
One of my favorite quotes from Hanh is “When you do the dishes, DO the dishes.” What he means by this is that far too often we write off doing the dishes as meaningless drudgery that should be done quickly and without thought so that we can move on to “more meaningful” tasks. Yet Hanh suggests that when we take the time to notice is, there is great meaning and beauty in doing the dishes. Have you ever paid attention to the drops of water running down the side of a glass like raindrops on a tree leaf? Have you noticed the variety of colors in the soap bubbles? Do you feel the soothing feeling of the hot water? According to Hanh, meaning can be found in anything if we’ll just take time to pay attention.
It seems to me that Jesus lived fully in each moment. Sure Jesus knew he was marching to the cross. Yet, as the Gospels tell us about his life, he seemed to pretty much live one day at a time. In essence, he made up his ministry as he went along, always adapting and changing to the circumstances around him. Jesus was fully present to the people he spoke with, and to the situations he found himself in. There was a plan, but it never got in the way of recognizing the power of what’s happening now.
I’m not sure why I’m sharing this. On the one hand, I believe strongly that we should have a plan and march toward the future. Yet, I want to avoid missing the great things that are happening now. Sure I want to see more folks in worship, and we’re working to carry out that plan. Yet, we shouldn’t get so caught up in that vision that we fail to hear what God is doing among us right now.
I hope that we will all help each other to appreciate the beauty around us. I hope that we can “…DO the dishes…” as we live into the future that God has in store for us.