What do you see?
My grandma’s kitchen table overflowed with happy chaos –as did her closets, drawers, shelves, baskets and any other available surface. She was a quilter, crafter, seamstress and creator of quasi-useful doo-dads extraordinaire. She should have had a blog.
Some might have thought she was a hoarder, but she actually made use of her stashes of potential and gave most of the finished projects away. A quilt stretched out on a frame usually took up most of the living room and when I came home from school I automatically picked up a threaded needle and joined the two or three older friends (all called Mrs. So-and-so, even to each other) while Grandma fixed me a snack.
One of the other jobs she gave me was sorting the bottles of buttons she snipped off thrift store clothes too worn to wear, but still good for quilt patches. I learned I could look at the buttons spread out before me and concentrate on seeing a certain colour. If I thought, “Red!” the red buttons popped out and I put them into egg carton sections. If I thought “Yellow!” the red buttons would fade and the yellow ones would stand out.
I can still do it. Is it just me?
As I was thinking about thinking (any thing to avoid housework) I remembered this button experience. We tend to see what we are thinking about.
I am blessed with a beautiful granddaughter who thinks differently than most kids. It makes for an awkward social life but gives her plenty of time to read, observe strange human behaviour and contemplate complexities. At the age of about five or six years old she was obsessed with learning Bible stories. She had read her children’s Bible through several times and knew the history of many obscure characters I didn’t recognize. Her favourites were the prophets –especially the female prophets.
“They could hear God talking to them! Isn’t that amazing, Grammie? My favourite is Miriam, because she was so smart and she got to save her little brother Moses and be a dancer and singer/songwriter and a prophetess too!”
One day while we were making cookies she asked me, “Do you think it would have been easier to be a disciple of John the Baptist or a disciple of Jesus?”
I hadn’t really thought about it before so I asked her, “What do you think, honey?” – because obviously she had been thinking about it.
She said, “Well, I think John the Baptist because he worked in the same area most of the time, and people came out to see him, so if you were his disciple you could go home for supper and have your own room and everything, but if you were Jesus’ disciple you would have to walk and walk and follow him around because he never even had his own house, so you wouldn’t either and they never had cars or buses or anything for transportation so your feet would get really sore, except that they did have boats on the lake of Galilee so sometimes they could travel by boat…”
It doesn’t take much to get her on a roll.
“So there was this time when the disciples were in a boat at night? They saw Jesus walking on the water –well, it turned out to be Jesus, but they thought at first he was a ghost because you don’t really expect to see somebody walking on the water in the dark at night and maybe one of them saw a ghost before or something – and anyway Peter said, “Jesus, if that’s you I will walk on water too,” so he got out of the boat and he did! He did walk on water, Grammie! Isn’t that amazing? (She used that expression a lot) and then he was walking, walking, walking and oh no! He started to go down and he looked at his feet and they were under the water and he looked at the waves and they got bigger and his knees were under the water and he saw more water coming and he started going down and down and down and do you know what I think that means, Grammie?”
“What, honey?” (Why slow her down now?)
“I think that means that when we look at our sin all we see is our sin and we get too afraid to look at Jesus. The waves are like our bad things and the problem is when we look at our bad things we just do another bad thing because that’s all we know how to do. We need to stop thinking about being bad! We need to look at Jesus walking on the water because he’s the only one who knows how to do it.”
Preach it, little sister.
She smashed the peanut butter cookie dough with her fist and chattered on about foods and baking raisin cakes in the Bible, but my mind stayed with her observations on focus.
We see what we focus on. When we pray, “Oh Lord, make me ever mindful of what a worm I am and how horrible my sins are,” we are like Peter looking at the waves and his inability to conquer them –and our only solution is to try to use the same tactics that have failed us so many times before.
It’s like thinking about red buttons and seeing red buttons.
Some people say, “Have faith.” But faith in what? Happy endings? Our ability to overcome all by ourselves? That this time will be different? We can have all the faith in the world that this time we will walk on water, but when we start to sink it’s panic time -again. We think, “Don’t think about eating, or spending, or coveting… maybe if I try harder, keep the junk food out of the house, cut up the credit cards, stay off Pinterest, put a blocker on those TV channels, avoid the Facebook gossipy rants about famous people, bite my tongue, pour the booze down the toilet, memorize scripture verses….ooh, chocolate…that always makes me feel better…oh no…I’m horrible…I can’t even resist a measly brownie…I’m a sinner and I will always be a sinner…I’m so disgusting…glug…glug….glu…
Our faith cannot be in our ability to try harder. It needs to be in Jesus, who knows how to do this water-walking stuff. He doesn’t walk for us, but he does show us how to walk with him . Our eyes must be on Him, not us! It’s a matter of seeing what you think about.
Jesus? If that’s you we will walk on water too!
Let us strip off everything that hinders us, as well as the sin which dogs our feet, and let us run the race that we have to run with patience, our eyes fixed on Jesus the source and the goal of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
Now to him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glory without fault and with unspeakable joy, to the only God, our saviour, be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before time was, now, and in all ages to come, amen. Jude 1:24