“According to the Talmud, every blade of grass has its own angel bending over it, whispering, ‘Grow, grow.'” – Barbara Brown Taylor
I am taking it easy as far as running goes this week. After my 10-mile pain-free run on Sunday, I wanted to rest before our upcoming Marine Corps 17.75K race. On Wednesday, I did a short, easy run around town with my best running partner (Bill) and thought about a conversation I had with my grandsons the day before.
Actually, I was not part of the conversation. I was eavesdropping on their conversation from the front seat of the car.
They were discussing infinity, in the mathematical sense. They first pondered whether there could be an infinite number of cars. This made complete sense to me, as it was rush hour, and it seemed like an infinite line of traffic stretched out ahead of us.
No, they decided, even though there are lots of cars, there is not an infinite number of them.
“How about trees?” the younger one (who just turned five on St. Patrick’s Day) asked. “No,” the older one (seven) answered, “there are not an infinite number of trees. You could count them.”
They thought there might be an infinite number of blades of grass for a few minutes, but then the older boy told his brother that even though it might take a really long time, you could eventually count all the blades of grass in the world.
Then he said something profound. “Henry,” he said, “there are an infinite amount of numbers, but there cannot be an infinite amount of things.”
I may be prejudiced, but I think that’s a very mature understanding of some pretty advanced and esoteric topics like infinity, numbers, limits, and the difference between concepts (numbers) and concrete objects (blades of grass).
The conversation reminded me of one of my favorite verses from 2 Corinthians: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal..”
It may seem counterintuitive, but the seemingly sturdy, solid, temporal world is, in fact as fleeting and ephemeral as a mayfly. An enigmatic concept like eternity is real, lasting, abiding.
What is seen, though, takes up so much of our time and energy. I have races to prepare for, family and friends to laugh with, a blog post to write, for heaven’s sake. We have finances to worry about, jobs to attend to (most of us), and a Target run to make.
Are we expected to give all of that up? Renounce our possessions, reside in a cave, and live the life of a wild-eyed hermit focused on eternity? The promise of walking on streets of gold in a far-off heaven may bring scant comfort when the rent is due tomorrow.
We are corporeal beings, living in a tangible world. The pursuit of real goals can leave us anxious, even weary. That is to be expected; it is the nature of the world we live in. It was the nature of the world the Apostle Paul lived in nearly 2,000 years ago when he wrote those words.
But God is love. The Holy Spirit brings us hope, compassion, faith, and grace, all in infinite supply. The tangible can be reconciled with the eternal here on this beautiful, wild, fringed, and fraying earth.
Paul shows the path to reconciliation earlier in the same chapter of 2 Corinthians when he wrote: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
What could be more “of the earth” than clay? In the time of Paul, skilled potters dug clay and mixed it with water. They molded the clay into a variety of shapes and sizes, each one unique. The pots were glazed using natural pigments in a myriad of designs and colors. They fired the clay in wood-burning ovens to make it hard, but breakable.
Just like each one of us. Unique and hard, but breakable.
The fact that each one of us is hard, occupying a body with mass and definite boundaries is evident every time I step on the bathroom scales or stub my toe on the bed frame in the middle of the night.
My body is breakable; that is undeniable. I recently came back from months of trying to run with a broken hamstring. Luckily, my body eventually healed that break. One day, I will be broken in an unmendable way, and my clay pot will be shattered beyond repair. But, Paul knew that the decorated clay pots held their treasures on the inside.
Just like us. Our treasure is on the inside and it abides.
God’s light shines out from each one of us. It’s inside of us right now. We don’t have to wait for some remote eternity.
Whenever we take a plate of cookies to a sick neighbor, give a clean pair of socks and a hot meal to a homeless person, deliver groceries to the homebound, volunteer to babysit for a harried parent, or donate money to help hurricane victims, God’s light is shining through us.
When we love the unloveable, forgive the unforgivable and show mercy to the undeserving, God’s light is shining through us. The eternal inside the material. The treasure inside the clay pot. And an angel whispering to every blade of grass.
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