Saint Teresa of Avila, the great 16th century spiritual writer and Carmelite mystic, tells us that we are never closer to God than when we’re immersed in the ordinary things of daily life. She wrote something that stays in my mind everyday: “God is in the pots and the pans.”
Those three wise ones from the East, the Magi in the Gospel for Epiphany Sunday, were searching for an earthly king in all his splendor. Instead they found God in the helplessness of a little baby and the dirtiness of a manger. They had an epiphany: they found God in the pots and the pans. Where are you looking for God?
Many years ago I had an epiphany experience of my own. I had always been a person of faith and hope but some bad things were happening in the world. The news was filled with violence and war, and stories about homeless people dying in the streets and children being abducted. It seemed as if hatred and human suffering were overpowering goodness and love. I began to ask where was God in the face of so much pain and suffering? I could no longer see Christ present in our world. Then one day something special happened.
It was a beautiful October morning as I drove down Central Park West. I had been driving in early on Saturday mornings with coffee and sandwiches looking for people who were homeless. I spotted a disheveled young man huddled in a red sweatshirt, sitting on a park bench, rocking back and forth and staring into space. After saying good morning, I offered him some hot coffee, but he didn’t respond.
Sitting down on the bench, I poured us both some coffee and placed his cup and a few cookies down next to him. He continued to stare into space. Sipping my coffee I carried on a one-way conversation for a while. He began to chatter in nonsense sounds to each squirrel that ran by.
After a while his fingers inched over to the coffee and he gulped it down as he continued chattering with the squirrels. I finished my second cup of coffee and said good-bye, but he still did not acknowledge my presence. Walking to the curb where my car was parked, I kept thinking how this young man was so badly damaged in mind and body that he probably wouldn’t survive the winter.
Lost in my own sadness, I pulled away from the curb. As I drove down the street I glanced in my rear view mirror. My friend had left his bench and was standing in the street waving good-bye to me.
My eyes welled up with tears; I realized that what I was seeing in my rear view mirror was Christ. Not that this man was Jesus in disguise, but rather that the Christ, the presence of God within him, in the midst of all his brokenness, was reaching out and connecting to the Christ, the presence of God, within me. At that instant my eyes were opened and everything made sense.
God places a little piece of himself inside of each of us when we are born. That little piece of God is our immortal soul. It is the Presence of Christ within us. And like those wise ones from the East, the Magi in the Gospel, our soul is on a journey to its eternal home with God. It is a journey that must go through and see beyond the pots and the pans of life.
But Christ is present in those pots and the pans just as surely as he was present in the center of that manger. It is the Christ who dwells in the depths of our being who surprises us and fills us with hope and wonder, like he did for those wise ones from the East, like he did for me that day in Central Park.
It is Christ who makes it possible for us to go home by another way.
Readers of this blog might enjoy these books by Deacon Lex. Both are available on Amazon.com:
Just to Follow My Friend: Experiencing God’s Presence in Everyday Life
Synchronicity as the Work of the Holy Spirit: Jungian Insights for Spiritual Direction and Pastoral Ministryhttp://www.amazon.com/Synchronicity-Work-Holy-Spirit-Spiritual/dp/1463518781/