When mom was getting ready to go out somewhere she would inevitably ask dad, “How do I look?” With a peck on her cheek he would answer, “You always look beautiful to me.” Recently a young man preparing to start a ranching life with his young bride was asked when he thought she was the most beautiful. “When she is operating machinery,” he responded quickly. Now both these men were very wise. Their answers were not going to get them in trouble. Even though we know the truth about how we look at any time, we women always respond to a man’s compliment. It was just the same when mom was straightening dad’s tie and giving him an appraising eye before she sent him out the door to teach each morning, with love in her eyes and a peck on his cheek.
Maybe I have been thinking about the line “seeing with the eyes of love” because I’ve been traveling of late in places where the milling throngs are representative of everywhere in the world. I was amazed at how seldom I saw anger or frustration or heard heated words whatever language. People were hot and tired. You could tell by looking at their faces. But even when dealing with tired or fussy children there was an incredible amount of patience.
We took turns standing patiently and quietly in rest room lines and food lines. We offered to take pictures of each other so you had a group shot for your album. If someone dropped something, someone picked it up so you wouldn’t lose it. If you caught someone’s eye you smiled. The day after the Orlando shootings we were sitting in a hotel lobby with many others eating breakfast. All eyes were on the television and the horrific shots from the carnage. People spoke quietly while others read the newspaper headlines that lay scattered around the lobby. As we continued traveling we soon noticed the many flags at half staff and also graffiti comments remembering the fallen. As in other times in America’s history, when tragedies occur, we seemed to be as one.
Seeing “with the eyes of love”. I watched a group of Japanese tourists help one of their own, a disabled young woman. I saw seniors pushed in wheel chairs or walking with children or grand children or with walkers and no one pushed them aside or bumped them if it was possible. The same care was taken of young parents with small children. The watchword seemed to be “No rush.” As I was descending a couple of stairs I stumbled slightly and immediately an older gentleman shot out his hand to grab my arm and let me lean on him for an instant before we both moved on. Chivalry is not dead!
Seeing “with the eyes of love” is a way of living life not just an occasional thing. No one is too old or too young or too poor or too rich. St. Paul says, “There is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, but all are one in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Seeing “with the eyes of love” was in evidence all around me. It was seeping into my bones. It was very good.
Cleaning in my back bedroom the other day, I stood for a moment looking at the chest of drawers that belonged to my grandmother. When I was growing up the chest sat in the corner of my grandparents’ bedroom on the ranch in South Dakota. You did not enter their room unless invited, so to a child’s eye the chest stood, quietly, almost sentinel-like in a place of serenity.
In my mother’s childhood, Grandma had run a post office and grocery store out of the back bedroom and my Grandfather had installed a gas pump. They had to make a little extra money to keep the ranch going. From that business Grandma was able to buy a desk for my Grandfather and the chest for herself, two pieces of furniture that are still in our family. As my mother did, I use the chest for storing linens and other items I don’t use often but want to keep. And I don’t want to wear the chest out from overuse.
As I moved on with my cleaning, it struck me that the chest reminded me a little of our personal Christian faith. At the beginning of our lives faith is often a gift from grandparents and parents who encouraged us in the faith. We cherish that faith and honor those who pass it on to us. On Christmas Eve the church fills with many folks who are there because “we always did this at Grandma’s” or “because Mom and Dad would want us to be here”. Like the chest in my bedroom, for many people faith is a thing of beauty, a treasured piece of life, but an antique nonetheless. We wouldn’t want to wear it out from overuse, or so it seems.
A friend of mine once told me a question she had been asked when she attended seminary, “Are you a Christian because you have been told or are you a Christian because you know?” Faith is meant to be who we are, a living, breathing testament to the love of God in our lives and to God’s grace, always active and full of the gift of peace. We are meant to radiate our faith in all we do, living lives of meaning and purpose.
Grandma’s chest of drawers is something I will treasure for its family history. It is a piece of who I am, but my faith is not an antique. Faith never wears out from overuse, it only grows stronger. As a child I believed because I was told, but now I know because God knows me fully and completely as only God can.