The Whole World

From Tyler: There’s a whole slew of writers online who are far better than me, but haven’t gained the following they deserve. One of my goals for this space is to give new voices a chance to share. I choose these guest posts carefully because I want to repay my loyal readers with great writing. Enjoy this post from Dave Harrity.

Blessed are the pure in heart,

for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

—The Sermon on the Mount

Every day since I started paying attention to my lifestarted intentionally contemplating, writing, thinkingI’ve been offered a small scrap of silence each day. Often it comes when I’m intentionally seeking it, but sometimes it sneaks up on me. I’ll be going about my business in all the usual noisy placeswork, home (especially after my kids have gotten out of bed!), driving, wherever—and a noiselessness emerges out of the barrage or monotonous background: a few seconds of complete stillness.

These polished quiets are a haven for me—a tiny seclusion from all the flickering busyness. The trick is allowing myself to experience them; I’ve been so focused on my tasks for the day that I’ve worked through the moment or I’ve been so startled by it that I push it away. For me, these flashes of peace are a foil to what’s always happening, a reassurance against what’s constantly moving around or in me—they’re a reminder that there’s always a retreat just before me and just after me. When I slow down long enough to feel the reality of quiet—that it’s everywhere—a wonderful peace comes and I realize that I’m not living within noises but between silences.

Here’s the beauty that comes when I sit in those silences: I begin to create with words. And here’s the lovely part about creating: there’s new and tangible proof that I’ve walked the earth, that my life was real; words bear witness to that—these scribbles of me, these notes and observations are now part of the hope I have, the little life I’m living that captures the divine beauty in and around me.

My little daily experiments: journaling, lines of poetry, moments in my days. And it moves past me. Maybe you and I are bringing the world together, slowing down enough to see things many people we know have never slowed down long enough to see. This—maybe—is God’s intent for creative vision: that we have a deliberate and complete peace, a reconciled reality, a whole community, a blessed hope. Maybe that’s why Christ charges us to engage the weak, the sad, the starving, the strange—that we might move closer to bearing these realities. Because when we live with the least we have to move slow.

There’s a song my wife and I sing with our children to pray—one you probably know—that seems to me to harken to this idea of completeness, of community: “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.” We sing it often in our home with the names of friends and family living in the rhythm:

He’s got Nona and Pop in His hands . . .

He’s got Stacie and Doug in His hands . . .

He’s got Grandma and Grandpa in His hands . . .

He’s got Charlie and Sonya in His hands . . .

He’s got the puppies and fishes in His hands . . .

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

Everyone we know makes it in—at some point—and, of course, there are mainstay names not mentioned above. It once occurred to me that the words say “whole world” and I wondered how much we—I, really—actually meant it; maybe we just meant our whole world, which misses the point. So we’ve added a refrain that’s become a standard, and we sing it together each time to end the song:

He’s got our neighbors and our enemies in His hands.

He’s got our neighbors and our enemies in His hands.

He’s got our neighbors and our enemies in His hands.

He’s got all of us in His hands.

It seems to me that this is our hope, or should be. That when we pay attention, we begin to see what’s left out, negated, hidden, or on the cusp of coming forward and that we should reconcile to it. That we see the world and the people in it wholistically.

This might be what Christ is calling us to in the Sermon on the Mount—an inclusive community, a complete and sweeping graciousness. You can’t argue with the child-like truth of this kind of revolution, yet you can’t quite grasp its fathomless depth either. At least I can’t. I intend to spend my whole life trying to come close.

Christ calls us: practice slowness, grip the moment before you and see it without hesitation, see the real and brilliant places before you; love your neighbor, bless your enemy, treat all creation with amiable respect. Because each being in this world is created, designed, intentional.

How can we possibly be expected to do these heavy things without times of quiet, solitude, contemplation, and prayer? And how can we reflect on what it means to practice the Way of Jesus if we have no creative means to do so?

The question is simple: how will the world change if you aren’t living in it? You’re here—built with a purpose, bought with a price. How can you even think about wasting another moment neglecting the grace in this world in favor of its brokenness?

Don’t waste one more second of your precious life on that fear, that shame, or that guilt. All those toxic seeds that take root, dig deep.

Get up and walk from here. Forgive those who need forgiving. Apologize to those who deserve it. Reconcile. Or maybe you need to forgive yourself. Do it.

Why waste another second on the small violence in your heart when you can rise to meet a road of peace, when you can pause in a moment where God has come nearer to us? How will you do it?

Have you ever seen dye plunge into water? The way it thins, spinning out liquid tangles—locks and threads—winding in and out of themselves? Try it sometime if you can’t see it clearly in your mind. Try it right now.

The color slowly spreads itself, meanders until the glass has tinted. This is what it’s like to awaken and see that your words matter, that Heaven isn’t far from right now, that it’s broken into this world and is being realized every moment you, your neighbor, and your enemy breathe the same sacred air. Its colors fanning out, spreading, changing the very tint of existence.

And just like that drop of dye against the water’s surface, everything is about to be subtly redefined; everything is about to be new. Every bit of this world revisioned. Every moment remembered.

Dave Harrity is the author of “Making Manifest: On Faith, Creativity, and the Kingdom at Hand” a book of devotional meditations and creative exercises. As the founder and director of Antler—a community-building and teaching platform devoted to instructing people in practice of creative practice, contemplative living, and spiritual formation—he travels the country educating people about the intersection of faith and imagination. He lives in Louisville with his wife and children and can be contacted directly @daveharrity.