Seeing and Believing
Lent is a time of forty days. (Sundays are not included in the official count since they represent feast days.) Quite a lot happens in the Bible for the forty day timeframe. Noah and his family with two of each of the animal kingdom are on the ark for forty days. Moses is on the mountain for forty days. Jesus is in the dessert for forty days. A woman is pregnant for forty weeks. All are times of birth – birth of a new world; birth of the laws; birth of resisting temptation; birth span (in terms of weeks)of one of God’s children. In Biblical times, forty represented a very long time. Any woman who has been pregnant would agree!
Lent is also a time of birth, a rebirth of our commitment to our faith and ourselves. It is that time in which we are to clear out the cobwebs of our souls and daily living. By blessing ourselves, we bless He who gave everything for us. It may not seem like much if you give up a cup of coffee or chocolate, but if you take that money not spent and donate it, that meal which could be purchased is life-blessing. Making yourself get on the treadmill after supper and possibly miss the latest reality show doesn’t seem like it could help God but the years you add to your life will mean everything to the reality of your family.
During this week of Lent I have asked that you become more knowledgeable about yourself. This is not a project with a definite beginning and end. It is an on-going process in which we engage from the moment of our birth until that point in time in which we simply stop trying. Knowledge is not about learning, though. It is about our vision, our internal vision.
What is your vision? What is the vision others have of you? Our perception of our visions often drives our very actions, our choices, or responses. We see someone and instantly decide whether they are friend or foe. We seek the focus of the group approaching us to determine if they are dangerous or not. We make career choices based upon the vision we have for ourselves, in selecting what will best help ourselves accomplish that which we hope to come to pass.
A young girl grew up in a city that should have given her opportunities. The reality was that hers was a hard life. She became an unwed mother, typical for those with similar appearance, and married without it lasting. For a number of years she was a statistic but then she lived her vision. She danced with acclaimed dance companies, was applauded for her stage presence and her vocal messages. She exceeded the vision the community had of her and became the vision she dreamed for herself. That vision was named Maya Angelou.
Walk down any street in any town in any country and you will see diversity. The trees, the rocks, the grass, the birds the flowers or cacti are all part of nature’s diversity. What color is the house two streets over from yours? Is it the same color? Even houses that look alike on the outside are different inside because they reflect the people living there.
As a species, mankind is not so dissimilar. In the animal kingdom there are elephants and snails. In the plant kingdom, even something like the squash can vary from one pound to one thousand pounds. Man, however, is within three feet of a height variance, and less than a ton in weight variance. There are approximately seven basic skin hues but those are all in the same color family. Yet, because of our vision, because of what we see and how we perceive it, people are killed, wars are waged, and mankind turns against itself.
Where is our vision for the future? How does the killing of our own help us achieve having a future? Maya Angelou wrote about vision: “One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Our vision for ourselves and our world needs to be courageous. We need to see the goodness in the group approaching and react with kindness and mercy. We need to have enough confidence in ourselves to trust others. “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”
As little kids we often envision what we would like to do when we grow up. Maya Angelou became the first female street car driver in San Francisco. It is unlikely that her childhood dreams included street cars or driving them but, once she had the opportunity, she embraced it and made it her vision. We are not always walking in the light; sometimes we stumble around in a fog or darkness. Faith is the light that gives us strength. Beliefs are the guiderail for our visions and making them our reality.
Maya Angelou danced, drove, and sang her way into the hearts of many but her greatest vision was that of a writer. She never went to college and her education was marginal at best due to the vision others had of her but she prevailed and succeeded. She worked her vision and made it come into focus. She serves as a role model for us all. Her acceptance of seeming defeat but refusal to be defeated led her to new and exciting opportunities and experiences. She never closed her eyes to the vision of being herself.
We all need to live such a life, to encapsulate the vision our Creator has for each of us. We need to see the beauty of our brother and sister. Maya Angelou encouraged us to “try to be a rainbow in some else’s cloud.” She reminded us through her life and works that everything we see becomes part of the way to make our vision happen. And she left us with the best advice of all: “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.”