I was driving home the other day when I saw something that struck me, and I've been thinking about it ever since.
I was sitting at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green when I noticed a car opposite me, making a turn. There was a huge flock of birds in the street they were attempting to turn into, feasting on a bunch of bread someone had dumped there.
The driver slowed down to a crawl, moving forward at a snails' pace to give the birds time to move. Once they scattered, he proceeded to make his turn and then drove off.
I found myself wondering about the impulse that the driver felt to slow down so that he didn't hit any of the birds.
He could have easily just driven at a normal rate of speed, but it was apparent that he didn't want to harm any of them---these little creatures on the road, just trying to eat. Instead of just driving through them, he slowed down to ensure their survival.
As I thought about this, I remembered a line from a poem I'd read a couple of weeks ago by Adam Zagajewski, with a stanza that goes like this:
In the rear-view mirror suddenly
I saw the bulk of the Beauvais Cathedral;
Great things dwell in small ones,
For a moment.
It was a small thing---this gesture of mercy. But it said something to me about the inherent goodness of most people, which is always there below the surface.
You see, God imprinted us with God's DNA what Scripture calls the imago dei or the "image of God. We were not created flawed. In fact, humans, are the only part of Creation that God refers to as "very good," in the Genesis account.
But we deny the image of God within us in a hundred different ways--blurring that image from view, even though it lives just below the surface of our fears, anger, selfishness, and pride.
And some people deny it to the point that it becomes almost impossible for anyone to catch a glimpse of it at all. The saddest bit is that far too many of those people would self-identify as Christian.
It takes no small amount of vulnerability to admit that we are not as we should be when it comes to living into our God-printed identity. It requires sacrificing our comfort, our position, our power...
It also requires us to be present in the moment enough to realize what the Spirit might be teaching us about ourselves, and about what God desires for us.
Fr. Richard Rohr puts it like this:
To be present to something is to allow the moment, the person, the idea, or the situation to influence us and even change us. Our word for that is vulnerability. Could that be why we are afraid of such a stance? We give the event control over us, and none of us like that. - Rohr
That driver did something that made me realize this anew. It was a small thing for him to surrender his power, and be slightly inconvenienced in order to ensure the well-being of the tiny creatures in the road.
I can't help but recall the following two verses from Matthew chapter 10 where Jesus tells his followers this:
29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside [God's] care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Jesus wanted his listeners to know how very precious each of them was in the eyes of God. It's like he's saying to them:
"God's love and kindness cover even the tiniest parts of Creation--I mean even the death of a little bird that no one really cares about grieves the heart of God. And this same God loves you so intimately that it's like God knows just how many hairs are on your head. That's how precious you are."
You and I are imbued with goodness. We might struggle at times to show it, to be sure. And there are some among us who have denied the imago dei so long that it seems they might never be able to let it be seen.
But we are called to live better, and truer lives--to finally become the people God dreams for us to be.
Every single day, we are given countless opportunities to put away our selfish desires when it comes to the people we encounter who are less fortunate... those who are oppressed... those who are vulnerable... those without power.
But when we do, these small moments can become great things. When we let down our guard and allow the imago dei within us to shine through... it can change the world.
May you let the image of God within you shine like the sun today and every day. May you discover your truest and best self as you do.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.