If peace comes from seeing the whole,then misery stems from a loss of perspective.We begin so aware and grateful. The sun somehow hangs there in the sky. The little bird sings. The miracle of life just happens. Then we stub our toe and in that moment of pain, the whole world is reduced to our poor little toe. Now, for a day or two, it is difficult to walk. With every step, we are reminded of our poor little toe.Our vigilance becomes: Which defines our day—the pinch we feel in walking on a bruised toe, or the miracle still happening?It is the giving over to smallness that opens us to misery. In truth, we begin taking nothing for granted, grateful that we have enough to eat, that we are well enough to eat. But somehow, through the living of our days, our focus narrows like a camera that shutters down, cropping out the horizon and one day we’re miffed at a diner because the eggs are runny or the hash isn’t seasoned just the way we like.When we narrow our focus, the problem seems everything. We forget when we were lonely, dreaming of a partner. We forget first beholding the beauty of another. We forget the comfort of first being seen and held and heard. When our view shuts down, we’re up in the night annoyed by the way our lover pulls the covers or leaves the dishes in the sink without soaking them first.In actuality, misery is a moment of suffering allowed to become everything. So, when feeling miserable, we must look wider than what hurts. When feeling a splinter, we must, while trying to remove it, remember there is a body that is not splinter and a spirit that is not splinter and a world that is not splinter.
Mark Nepo
I’d like to share with you a parable: the parable of Bob the Angel.A girl was walking down a darkly lit city street late at night. A man jumped out from the shadows and attacked her, suddenly she was suffocating and disoriented as hands clasped around her neck and the force of his attack started to push her down. She tried to yell as she struggled to pull his arms from her neck while she crumpled backwards to the ground, God . . . help me! The next thing she remembers—just as the fear consumed her and right as she disappeared into the misery and despair of helplessness—was a loud crash and an explosion of glass which rained down upon her and her attacker. The assailant’s lifeless body was suspended above her, held from collapsing on her by an unknown force and then pulled away from hovering over her and dropped onto the pavement beside her. She opened her eyes in the faint shadowy light, to see black matted hair and a long, black beard framing the eyes of a man. The smell of alcohol on his breath would have knocked her out if the adrenaline was not still trilling through her veins. There he stood, God’s angel, off-kilter and drunk, with a broken whiskey bottle in his hand. You probably shouldn’t be walking through here this late at night, was all he said as he turned away.Wait! What’s your name? she asked, still stunned half sitting up on the ground.All she heard as he walked away was his trailing voice calling, Bob’s as good as any. . . . An angel is a messenger and sometimes we only want letters sent in white envelopes with beautiful gold print, when sometimes a simple no on the back of a gum wrapper is what we are offered. Every postcard from heaven does not come with a picture of the sunset there, nor should it. If it is an answer we want, an answer we will get. As far as pretty postcards, there are many others willing to send us that. If not harps and gold-tipped wings, what then is the mark of an angel? An answer which pierces your soul and which inspires a question that invites you to look outside of yourself and up to God.
Michael Brent Jones