I learned from some students recently that ‘tag’ has become a professional sport, with leagues and global tournaments. Competitors take it in turns to chase each other around a small indoor arena that looks a bit like a playground, climbing over and under things and rolling and diving to catch or avoid being caught.
We’ve just had The Big Glasses Search in our house, which felt a bit like that. I lost my new glasses a month ago, was convinced that they were still in the house and the whole family has been involved in searching every possible place they could be, clearing out cupboards and even going through the recycling, item by item. I offered incentives and rewards and asked praying friends to pray for a miraculous find. Meanwhile, I’d been making do with an old pair of glasses.
The missing glasses just didn’t turn up and so we finally contacted the insurers to check if they would be covered and I reluctantly went along to the opticians to order a replacement pair. I sat down at a desk as a file with my name on it was taken out. ‘That should be no problem,’ the optician said, ‘let me just check that we’ve got all the details we need. Yes… that looks good. You had Elle frames that we’ll have to order again’ he said, looking up, ‘which are exactly like the ones you are wearing now’.
I now have an answer, should I ever wish to share this story again, to the question of my most embarrassing moment. It felt like a tumbleweed could have rolled across the shop as the optician, in his trendy yellow glasses looked quizzically at me while the penny dropped. ‘Thank you very much but I guess I won’t be needing that order,’ I managed to say while pushing out my chair and leaving the shop as quickly as I could.
In case my stupidity isn’t obvious, I’d somehow convinced myself that I’d lost my new glasses, when it seems it was my old glasses I’d lost. (The frames were actually quite similar…) All that time I was agonising, the answer to my prayer was already there, sometimes even literally before my eyes.
I’ve just been on a 3-day silent retreat. This is something I’ve done before but it had been a little while. I deliberately brought very little with me: my bible, a journal, some art supplies and one other book. I stayed in a converted pig-pen with a well stocked larder and with hundreds of birds for neighbours in beautiful and extensive grounds.
The first day, I kept myself busy, going for walks, coming up with a mental timetable for meals and reading and sketching but by day two I had already begun to relax into it and moved more slowly and looked and listened for longer. God’s presence was there, tangibly and beautifully.
But the ridiculous thing is that God’s presence is also here, back home, in the noise and amongst the busyness. Life doesn’t have to feel like a game of tag, but we can be aware of God in a deep breath, a holy word, an act of kindness; God’s as near as the glasses in front of my face.