I had lunch last week with my good friend Miss A. We are gardening buddies. In fact, we used to run a flower business together. We grew acres of blooms for florists, restaurants, and even for individual subscribers of our weekly delivery of bouquets.
Now, I could chalk up the following optimistic notion of ours to naiveté or just plain lack of gardening savvy but, the truth is, neither one of us ever doubted for one moment—never even thought to question—whether the seeds, the plugs, and the bulbs we planted might perhaps not grow and flourish. The thought just wasn’t there. Ever.
We planted. We watered. And we fully expected come Spring for those seeds to germinate, sprout, grow, flower, and reseed. And, somehow, they did just that.
They were, after all, seeds. And that is what seeds are created to do. While we didn’t fully understand the concept at the time (after all, some things only become clear with time and retrospect and a bit more life experience), we understand now that what we were doing was planting the seeds for Life itself. Everything a seed needs to become a functioning adult plant is encapsulated inside that seed coat—the roots, the stems, the leaves, the flowers. The totality of its being. Its whole life is right there inside.
And so, by planting those seeds, we gave them an opportunity to do exactly what they were created to do. Live.
We had beautiful fields of larkspur, snapdragons, poppies, anemones, sunflowers, zinnias, and so many other flowers, it is hard to list them all. We were so focused on the flowers we cut and sold and shared with others, that we rarely even noticed the stunted plant or the failed bloom. We were intentional about the focus of our business and our relationship with growing beautiful flowers. That was what we saw. Everything else was outside our range of vision.
Inattentional Blindness—the failure to notice a fully-visible, but unexpected object because attention is engaged on another task, event, or object. There have been many scientific experiments about this rather bizarre phenomenon. It is well known in behavioral science circles. In fact, you can Google or YouTube the subject to learn more. But inattentional blindness is real. It happens to all of us much of the time. Sometimes, we are so fixated on what we want or expect to see, we actually miss that other something that is right in front of our eyes.
One of the most entertaining scientific experiments was conducted during a staged basketball practice. Participants involved in the experiment were instructed to focus on three players in white uniforms who were passing a ball to one another versus three players in black uniforms who were also passing a ball to one another. The instructions were for the observers to count the number of times the players in white uniforms passed the ball. The monkey wrench thrown into the trial was that a person dressed in a gorilla suit walked through the midst of the practice.
Our lives, it seems, are full of inattentional blindness. We are a focused people. We have jobs and commitments and obligations and projects and so many things that compete for our attention 24/7 that we miss much of the important stuff that is going on all around us.
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is the one where Jesus goes to Mary and Martha’s house. Martha is busy preparing food and cleaning and serving and taking care of household duties. She is not only resentful that her sister Mary is just sitting there on the floor listening to Jesus but is also ticked off that Jesus doesn’t tell Mary to get off her duff and help Martha out with the housework.
Jesus’ answer is surprising to Martha and probably to many of us today. “Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” It is all about focus and priorities and intention. It is about paying attention to that which really matters. Martha was focused on the busyness of life, but Mary chose what was better, and that would not be taken away from her.
My gardening friend and I talked over lunch about how focus pertains to our lives today. We realized that we have to be intentional in our relationship with God and with our relationships with one another. She and I are friends, yes. But our friendship has lasted long beyond the demise of our business because we are intentional about it. We both live busy lives and don’t always move in the same circles. But we make a point to call one another (even when other commitments want to intervene). When we are together, we also make a point to focus on the things that matter in each other’s lives.
I also love the story attributed to Michelangelo when asked how he could carve the David out a big chunk of marble. Michelangelo’s apparent reply was that he focused on the figure that was inside the chunk of marble and simply cut away everything that was not David. Michelangelo was Intentional.
Just like a chunk of marble…just like a seed—everything we need and will become is inside us. God was Intentional. Shouldn’t we be, also?
We have to focus our energies on those things that are important in our lives. I want to see miracles. I know that miracles are out there. They happen every day in each of our lives. We just have to be intentional about seeking them out. About seeing them.
Let’s not succumb to Inattentional Blindness. Let’s not miss that which is most important in our world and in our lives.
Let’s not miss anything.
Let’s be Intentional. Let’s witness the Everyday Miracles.