Books on Culture: A Million Little Ways, Part Four

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Tim Miller 2012 01 20 Sunrise 012 480x300

It’s the end of the work day like the end of any other work day. Turn off the computer, pack up the briefcase, put on the jacket, turn out the light, and walk quickly down the hall to the entrance door in the building lobby.

I glance at my watch. I have, perhaps, just enough time to get ahead of the swath of traffic that will soon clog the southbound streets. A normal commute home is fifteen minutes. Many days, however, it’s thirty or forty or forty-five. If you hit the traffic just right, it will be the normal fifteen.

I come out of the entrance of the building and turn toward the parking lot. I work in a campus-like setting—buildings no more than three stories tall. The time is approaching dusk.

That’s when I glance up. And I am struck so dumb that I literally stop in my tracks, all thoughts of beating the traffic gone. The late afternoon sky is glorious. Yellows, pinks and grays are painted across a sky blue canvas, combined and layered to produce astonishing beauty.

I do what we all do in this day and age of citizen journalism. I whip out my phone and take a picture. The resulting photo captures the idea, but it is still a rather poor representation of what I witness.

I put the phone away, and remain standing, watching as the sky-painting begins to change and fade toward night.

The thought occurs that this display was designed for me. Other people leaving the building at the same time glance briefly up and keep walking, intent on reaching their cars for the journey home. No one seems awestruck like I am. No one even comments.

I realize I’m looking at eternity.

“Eternity is not for later,” writes Emily Freeman in A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Made to Live. “God weaves eternity into our minutes. Every day, he is creating minute after minute, and he hands us the grace we need for each one as they come.”

I’m standing outside of the building where I’ve worked for the last ten years, and it hits me for the first time that I’m staring into eternity. God has handed me a minute, actually about three minutes of eternity. He has painted this wonderful sky for me alone.

And I marvel at the largesse, the overabundance he has showered down on top of me. It may be the same proportions he used to create a universe for one inhabited planet.

I’m standing there, and I consider the day I just completed. My second month without a boss (that’s now grown to five months). Organizational disarray. Too much work and too few people to do it. People with short tempers. People hunkering down in the face of change, fearful of doing anything creative or innovative or that calls attention to itself. Anxiety written in every face you see, in the hearts and minds of every person you work with. If you’re honest with yourself, you’re experiencing the same fear and anxiety.

“There is no art in anxiety,” Freeman writes. “We try to manage the future, a time that doesn’t even exist yet, and we wonder why it makes our stomach hurt.” Or our backs. Some of us forget the eternity in minutes, and translate the stress and anxiety directly to our backs. I speak from experience.

Freeman is right. We spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to manage something that doesn’t exist, and when it happens it’s usually nothing like we expected it to be. We have become like fortunetellers, confidently predicting what doesn’t happen. For reasons known only to God and people who understand human nature, being wrong never stops us from doing the same thing all over again.

That day, standing outside my office building and staring like an openmouthed fool at the sky, that day I see eternity. That day I hear God say, “Look at this! Look at who created this!”

I think of God’s conversation with Job. I think of Jesus’ conversation with Martha. “Look at this, look at who I am. This is what your life is about. Not the barn and the fields. Not the money and wealth. Not the meals and the dishes that need to be washed. This!”

And still I stand, staring at the darkening sky, watching and experiencing the last glimmers of one of the most beautiful paintings I’ve ever seen .

My fifteen minute ride home has now likely become a forty-five minute ride home.

It’s a very small price to pay for a painting.

This wraps up our discussion of Emily P. Freeman's A Million Little Ways. To join the conversation, leave your link below or just jump in in the comments! Thanks for reading along with us.

Glynn Young leads the social media team for a Fortune 500 company in the Midwest. He is the author of the novels Dancing Priest (2011) and A Light Shining (2012), and the non-fiction book Poetry at Work (2013). He blogs at Faith, Fiction, Friends.

Image by Tim Miller. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.
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