“Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” Saint Paul to the Colossians
Years ago I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico and went into a gallery where there was an exquisite glass bowl displayed under a spotlight. It was actually ceramic but made to look like crystal. Paint was washed across the sides like watercolor and the effect was brilliant. I had to have it! At the time it seemed terribly expensive but something about it called to me and I impulsively purchased the bowl. In the beginning it was my treasure and occupied a place of great pride in the center of wherever I lived. However, gradually I began to take it for granted as another object that needed to be dusted and cared for. It’s beauty and uniqueness began to have less significance. Over the years it was admired by many of my acquaintances and once I had the opportunity of returning a favor by gifting the bowl to a generous friend but decided against it. I now have no idea where that vessel is. In the past years I have moved several times and have lost track of its whereabouts: perhaps it is wrapped safely in a bin or smashed into a million slivers inside a box. Regardless, its enchantment has worn off and the opportunity to experience generosity with something precious may be forever lost.
This weekend’s scripture readings are warning me against materialism and indicating fulfillment is to be found in kindness, generosity, patience and faithfulness. I have come to a place in my life where I finally believe this to be true. For many years I was entranced by beautiful things and believed them to possess great power. What I have learned is that something beautiful or desired may distract for a time but after the initial thrill has worn off, it is still necessary to put gasoline in the car, practice the piano, return the phone call, sort through the mail and perform a gazillion other tedious and necessary tasks. The object of my desire does not transform my existence but sometimes actually adds to the burden of it. I find myself eager to eliminate everything I am not utilizing or needing so that I can experience the maximum of freedom and attentiveness upon that which is important to me.
And what is important to me today? What has become essential is to be able to savor and appreciate nature: the smell and sight of morning as its light creeps across the dome of the sky. To halt in my myriad of tasks and listen to the sound of the wind, the rain or the wildlife. To telephone my mother every day and memorize the sound of her voice as she speaks. To read books and digest new ideas. To attempt mastery of a musical instrument. To broaden the quality and quantity of my friendships and to spend as much time as possible in the state of mirth. Because in the end who cares about a bowl, or a diamond or a piece of land? In the end what matters is the way my father enfolded me in his embrace, the way the music made me weep at the concert and the number of times I say and receive the words, “I love you.”
In the end these are the things that will remain~