Lenten Devotion - day 8
I was on a phone call today with a dear friend. He centers me, keeps me humble, challenges me, teaches me; and yet also learns from, listens to me, is humbled by me, and at the end of our phone conversations we both feel closer to God. We find God in each other.
My friend is a Sufi Muslim. He tells me I am a Sufi. The first time he told me I was a Sufi, I explained to him I wasn’t Muslim so how could I be a Sufi. He told me, “Young man you’re a Muslim too.” I wondered aloud how that could possibly be true. He said, “Have you submitted your will to God three times?” I admitted that I had done so more than three times, and he smiled knowingly and said, “Then you’re also a Muslim. You’re my Sufi Christian cleric Muslim friend… with Buddhist leanings.”
To be told such a thing both made me feel seen and invited. I am grateful for this friend because it is a rare thing to feel both seen and invited by another person. He sees me as a fellow traveler in this life, someone to learn from even. He invites me, without any kind of intention other than being a good fellow traveler in life, to learn from him too, to see him.
Today we talked about the importance of smiling at strangers. It didn’t start there mind you. It started with waxing poetic about the Divine reality that is the truth of all being. But great ideas are meaningless if they aren’t lived out. We can say that everyone bears the image of God, and even believe it, but how do we live it? He read to me a passage from a wiser saint from the past about how smiling at people is a gift to them.
It is and we know it. Sometimes, when I am feeling right and good, I will compliment strangers. “Your shoes are awesome.” “I love your vibe.” “That is a great hat.” “I wish I was as cool as you are when I was young.” “I want to be like you when I’m older.” It doesn’t really matter what the compliment is as long as it is genuine. But each stranger I say something like that to gives me a smile. I can feel their sudden joy, and it increases my joy.
The simple way we can give joy and receive joy from a stranger, and then leave that interaction and both have more joy than before is a great blessing.
I remember when you came to see me preach when I was an intern in an African-American church. It was Christmas Day, the church was packed, and you were there with my parents. We made up the white section. I remember what you said about it afterwards. You told me that my preaching style jarred you at first. You said, “I was wondering why you didn’t sound like yourself. Then as it went on, I realized what I was seeing and hearing was you. Everyone in that church knew it.”
Have I ever told you how much that meant to me? Not just that you were there, but that you actually saw me, and invited me into your experience so I could accept myself too. If I haven’t, I’m doing so now. That meant a lot to me. Thank you.
At least part of Lent (or maybe all of it) is to see the reality of things. The reality of things is they have the fingerprints of God and the love of God all over them. The reality of people is that they have the love of God within them and animating them. I wish for the world that those who encounter you have the experience I have of you. Someone who sees them, and invites others to see him. I wish for the world to discover the God in you, because the God in you has made the God in me sing.
Until tomorrow my friend,