Yesterday my friend Vicki related a remarkable tale.
She was preaching the first Sunday of Advent, and the gospel call was “stay awake!” That call rings out because, well—we all tend to be asleep. Living in our sleep, walking in our sleep, working in our sleep, eating and drinking in our sleep.
Vicki told of a day this week when she was paying some bills and went for her stamps. She had three piles of papers on her desk; everything of value and importance right now was in those piles. She was getting her whole house packed up for an impending move, and she had her business in three piles.
She paid the bills and went looking for the stamps she knew she had just bought. They were right here in one of these piles! She went through the piles. Nothing. Then she started rifling through boxes, getting more and more frustrated. Finally, Vicki said, “I stopped, took a deep breath and prayed to God—to help me find those stamps!” We all laughed, and she added, “Yes, I sometimes pray those prayers.”
She went back to the three piles, and there on the top were the stamps. “Now,” Vicki said, “I didn’t think God had fished the stamps out of some hidden place and put them on top of my pile. But something had changed. Then I realized what it was. When I had gone to the Post Office to buy the stamps they were out of the kind I always buy, so I had to take whatever they had left. The stamps had always been lying right on top of the pile, but they did not look like stamps. They did not fit my model of what a stamp looked like, so I didn’t see them. Immediately I thought, ‘What else am I not seeing?’”
I thought the same thing right along with Vicki. “What else am I not seeing?” The things that are smack in front of me. I thought of my walk to church that morning—of all the nude trees, the new holly shrubs, the still green ivy and the white Lamb’s Ear that I knew was there. I had no recollection of seeing anything. I thought of my relationships, my ministry, my writing, all the components of my life that I struggle to keep balanced and vital. What am I not seeing?
About two months ago I was on the phone with a friend in Chicago. She was going through some difficulty and we were talking about it together. Suddenly she said, “David, tell me what you see in my life.” I was surprised, didn’t know what she meant. “Tell me what you see,” she said again. “Very often we can’t see our own lives with clarity. We think we know everything so well, but we’re missing some major, obvious things. Is there something like that that you can see in me?”
That is one awake woman. She knows Advent. She will see the stamps.