Waiting at the stoplight on the way to school, drizzle dotting the windshield, and I grab my phone to take a picture of my daughter. The cloud-cast makes her skin look more alabaster than olive-gold; makes her blue-gray eyes look stormy.
“What’re you doing?” She asks. But I catch the hint of a smile, just the subtle shadow of a deeper joy.
“I’m taking a picture of you.” I watch her face through the camera as it sharpens and blurs, searching for a focus point. Even blurry, she looks impatient.
“But why?” She says.
“Because you’re beautiful,” I say simply, and she knows it’s not just that tawny-gold hair that’s still all sunshine on a rock-damp day. I’m talking about a thousand more things collected in the dashes of our lives—the way she quietly reminds Adam to test his blood sugar another time twenty minutes after he’s been low; the way she sits beside Riley all through a meal distracting her from anxiety; the way in the middle of a thick-tired afternoon, she’ll suddenly appear beside me with a mug of something homemade and sticky-sweet. I don’t see the way you see. I look at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Something God says drifts in with the rain. “And because I’m thankful that I get to take you to school every day,” I tell her. And I am.
It’s the first of many joys in my day, to get to look over and find Zoe next to me, to get to listen as she talks, sketching out some small detail I would have otherwise missed. I confess that I don’t always see it that way. I’m like that lens searching desperately for a point of focus, and sometimes I settle on the wrong perspective—the rush out the door, the clog of traffic. I have lately come to see how easily the enemy of our souls smudges the view with his slimy fingerprints, how with a slight of hand, he tempts us to look away from the real gift. And all the while, he’s stealing away my joy. He’s a thief, and it’s his ugly strategy to steal and kill and destroy. Meanwhile, God purposes to give me a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10), and when I pray, it’s as though God lifts the camera for me, holding it steady in just the right place, setting the focal point with an expansive hand. He teaches me to see. Here, treasure this.
I’m not even half way through my ask year, and already God has moved prayer from a can-do to a must-do for me, and not because I’m trying to check off some legalistic obligation. No. I need that relationship. In prayer, I point desperately, the way Riley used to point at what she wanted before she could speak. I offer God a few significantly urgent grunts for emphasis. And because He knows every particle of me; because He sees and understands and reaches far more than I ever could; He powerfully guides and shows and redirects and gives Himself to me, and not with one light, distracted hand but with the full force of Heart and Soul and Mind focused sharply on everything in all creation. This picture I’m taking this morning was His idea.
The conversation started on my birthday, when the choice to celebrate intentionally moved me to take pictures of all the seemingly ordinary parts of my day. Somehow labeling them with the word birthday suddenly made me feel more joyful about them. God whispered something significant to me that day about perspective; about how the filter through which we view our lives can make them look at one turn sullen and at another exultant. We have dozens of instant shades vying to alter our view of the same moment. It was His Spirit-wrapped gift for me that day, and the beginning of another thread between us. He has since gently but firmly reminded me that maturity in Christ empowers us to find joy and blessing even in trials (James 1:2) and in persecution (Matthew 5:11-12).
With me, movement toward that ultimate goal–a full perspective of joy—starts with the little things. Look at her. YOU get to do this. You get to take her to school.