A Courteous Contrararian

Cultivate the Twinkle

Written By: Jon - Jul• 05•12

What are you doing Sunday morning?

Will you be spending a leisurely morning at home, surrounded by family? Will you spend it at church ? Or will you be alone?

Wherever you are, scan the faces you can see. Look first for love; the love you were meant to give and the love you might receive. If we start here, we are on the way to fulfilling the greatest commandments.

Then look for age. How old are the faces you see?

If you are alone, the only face you see will be the one in the mirror. But you are not alone in the looking. Ultimately, we all face the mirror alone. Look at that face with love, and look at it in truth, for that is how Jesus looks upon it. Only you and he can see your face in that way, noticing the inherent loveliness as well as the hurts and the decadence; seeing the skin but gauging the heart. Perhaps it is a young face, full of hope. Perhaps it is older, like mine, yearning for what could have been as well as what still might be.

If you are with family, start with your spouse’s face. It has your name written all over it. Are there laugh lines at the corners of the eyes? Are there frown lines at the corners of the mouth? Either way, some of those lines are yours. So, partially, is the twinkle in their eye or the furrow of their brow. Now study the faces of your children if they are still among you, for the same things; the twinkle or the furrow. How old are they, and are you still giving them hope?

For we are all in this together and we are all in this alone. It is the essence of the human condition.

If you are at church, the study will take a different turn. You can’t know many of the faces as intimately as your own or your family’s. Still, look for the twinkles or the furrows. It will slow you down. It will change your focus. To a small extent, a very, very small extent, those expressions are also yours. Someday, we may all be changed in the twinkling of the eye. Today, we can all be changed by the twinkling of an eye.

Notice the faces and postures of those around you. Look for someone standing alone, not making eye contact. There will be no twinkle. The far off gaze says, “Don’t approach me” but then, why are they standing there? Why not sleep in? If they wanted merely to worship, they could do that anywhere, in solitude, feeling less alone. I know because that stranger is often me.

If it is also you, or even if it’s not, there is only one good way out. For you and for the stranger.

Ask a question. If we truly notice the faces, good questions will come naturally. Ask what made them come to your church in the first place? Did they have a tough week? (Don’t ask if they had a good week, it will make them answer in Christianese. Everybody has had a tough week, even when they are not aware of it. Jesus reminded us that each day has trouble enough of its own.)

Now here’s the hard part: as they answer, listen. Don’t be thinking of an opinion that might help them. Don’t wait for them to stop so you can commiserate with a similar incident. Stop your internal dialogue and listen hard. Listening hard can allow an extraordinary thing to happen. It can allow you to ask another question.

This new question will not be one asked so you can know the answer, but one asked so you can better know the answerer. In the answer will be a bonding of your spirits. It is your reasonable act of service and your proper alms giving. It is how we can best be Jesus. Not by offering sage advice and not by offering a like vignette from your own life. By listening. This is how we can deny self, by squelching our internal dialogue.

Hebrews 4 says we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize. We, on the other hand, are unable to sympathize unless we listen. Jesus knows their thoughts but we do not unless they tell us. They won’t tell us unless we listen hard and ask good questions. If we can learn to do these two things (and it will be a learning process) somewhere deep within their soul they will recognize it, and they might respond. They may not, for it will be likely that no one has ever spoken to them like that before. But even if they don’t, they will take note. Church can become a new thing for them as well as for you.

Then, when they look in the mirror, they might see something different. They might begin to see their face through your eye’s, or better yet, through Jesus’ eyes.

If we cultivate the twinkle in the eyes of those God has placed before us, and in the eyes of our spouse and the eyes of our kids, a new twinkle might become visible in our own eyes when we look in the mirror. And, although we won’t see it, Jesus might twinkle a little brighter as well. Cultivate the twinkle.


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