By Rev. Susan Brims, East District Missional Strategist and Superintendent
Did your mom or dad ever teach you that what you see is what you get? Although my parents taught me that phrase I have to admit as a young person I didn’t really understand it.
The words of my parents came back to me last week when we were having some repair work done at the house. We had a water leak that buckled part of the flooring. The only way we could fix the floor was to have someone tear it out and replace what was damaged. In the process the jack-hammer-like machine broke some of the tile by our fireplace. The company doing the work was most gracious and immediately offered to replace the broken tiles, but the replacement tiles they brought to the house were drastically different from what was damaged. What do you do when you are confronted with something that really doesn’t match? To tell you the truth, I could not imagine any option that would turn white tile into beige.
That’s where someone who saw things differently comes into the picture. When the man came to install the replacement tile he looked at everything and said, “it doesn’t match.” He stood looking at the mess for a while. I left the room and went upstairs to work, while he went to work on figuring out to make mismatched tile look good together. Little did I know that an artist was at work. Yes, he saw what I saw, mismatched tile, but he also began to see things that were possible. He saw that if he took out more than the two damaged tiles, he could use some of the broken tiles and put it together with the new tile to create something beautiful. When he called me downstairs to see what he had done, I was absolutely amazed. What he created looked better than what we had originally. How this man looked at the tile made all the difference. He saw what could be possible, even if what was in front of him was something he did not like when he first saw it.
The Bible contains many stories about times when God sees possibilities when others simply did not. In Genesis God saw Abraham and Sarah having a child when they were too old to see the possibility themselves. Mary and Martha stood at the grave of their brother when Jesus told Lazarus to “come forth.” They couldn’t imagine the possibility that something like that might actually happen. Over and over Jesus said that from a human perspective things appeared impossible, but from God’s perspective all things were possible.
Dealing with the pandemic has been filled with many “it’s how you look at it” opportunities. When some people saw their churches moving to online worship they saw only the fact that they couldn’t attend in-person worship and they didn’t like it. Others realized it was not what they wanted, but soon realized the possibilities in reaching not only some of the homebound, but also the possibilities of reaching people who would never walk into a church building and helping them experience God’s love. When meetings shifted to ZOOM, some saw only the very real challenges of learning new technology, while others saw the time saved in travel, allowing them to have dinner with their families before a meeting started.
What you see is what you get becomes a powerful spiritual formation phrase for a person of faith. It challenges you to not only see the difficulties that are real and present, but also to look at the situation to see beyond the first glance realities. There is the opportunity to ask God to help you see not only what is, but also what could be. Is there beauty hidden in the mess right in front of you?
Some of our churches are beginning to re-open in a careful way, following procedures they developed earlier in the pandemic. Some people are upset that reopening is taking a cautious step rather than simply returning to the way things used to be. Rather than writing your pastor to let them know how upset you are, take a moment to begin to wonder at the possibilities that might be present in following the plan developed by your COVID Response Team. Look for the love and care in the decisions. What you see is what you get.
In every challenge we face in life, as people of faith we are called to see what is possible rather than what feels impossible. Let the artist in your soul step forward and show you just what could be, when at first glance, you can’t imagine it at all. In doing this we are better able to live into a new reality where grace prevails, and hope abounds.
What you see is what you get. Give it a try the next time you face a difficulty. I believe you will be amazed at what God will create through you and with you. Something altogether beautiful will emerge.
Your Sister on the Journey,