Lenten Reflection: Looking

March 11, 2014 § 1 Comment

Looking UpI almost stepped in something really gross on the subway platform this morning. As soon as I got a whiff of the mess I missed, I started congratulating myself for looking down. Such a sensible habit I’d taught myself.

To survive in New York City, we have to train ourselves to look down: Don’t slip on that black ice! Watch out for the open basement hatch in front of that deli! Don’t step in what the dogs (and the occasional horse) leave behind!  Be careful of the stinky steam erupting from that manhole! Stand away from the platform edge, or you could fall on to the train tracks!

While we have many good reasons to look down, the psalm appointed for this Sunday asks us to move our gaze for a few minutes. Psalm 121, a Song of Ascents, begins:
I lift up my eyes to the hills;
from where is my help to come?

The psalmist doesn’t make us wait for the answer. The second verse answers the question:
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth

Despite the slush and muck we might be standing in right now, can we look up to God? We might laugh when tourists look up at our amazing city skyline and are so enchanted can’t move for a moment. Can we open ourselves to the same awe?

J.R. Miller begins his reflection on Psalm 121 this way:
“Not many of us at least are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb into the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us—and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose, in our self-indulgence. We do not know what glory awaits us—if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we would find—if only we would move to the uplands of God!”

This Lent, can we try to develop a habit of looking up — looking Godward — as often as we look down? Miller reminds us: “We grow in the direction in which our eyes habitually turn. We become like that on which we look much and intently. We were created to look up.”

Dear God, 
You made us to look up. When we stare at our feet (or our phones), we miss things. Even when we sense our full potential, we sometimes stick to what we know because it is easier and less scary. Give us courage for the climb. Help us to know that you will always protect us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

– Chris Phillips

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