Veronica recently shared with me an interesting report of a rainbow tree in Katong Park. One of the 4 species outside Australia, the Rainbow Eucalyptus is perhaps the most beautiful tree in the world. The colorful striations are created due to the fact that the tree doesn't shed its bark all at once. Slowly, over time, different layers fall off, while other exposed areas have already begun aging, forming different strips of pastels. “Let’s go look for the tree one of these days.” We both agreed. But I know “one of these days” may be long in coming. The problem with modern living is that we are too busy. Our “To-Do” list never gets fully checked off; we hurry from one place to another with our thoughts spread across a million and one things in between meetings. Working from home blurs the boundary line between work and private life, squeezing whatever last breath we have from our tightly compressed chests. We can barely be present with ourselves without our minds racing to a million places, much less being still and present with others. This lack of presence is affecting us more deeply than we realise. Henry Nouwen observed that when people say good things about us, we tend to brush them aside or dismiss them politely. What seems to be expressions of humility are in fact manifestation of our inability to be truly present with others to receive the blessings they offer us. He concluded that perhaps few people were willing to offer a real blessing these days because of the absence of people who were willing and able to receive such a blessing! It has become extremely difficult for us to stop, listen, pay attention and receive gracefully what is offered us.
Against this backdrop of modern living, the season of Lent extends the invitation to slow down our pace; to daily come away and be still in the presence of our Father; to cultivate the practice of being present to hear the voice of Abba speaking over His children in the course of our daily life; to experience the hand of God gently guiding and comforting us amidst life’s demands. Indeed, these many blessings are there, surrounding us. But we have to be present to them to receive them. They don’t force themselves on us. They are gentle reminders of that beautiful, strong, but the hidden voice of the One who calls us by name and speaks good things about us. Attentive presence is the first step to living our life as God’s beloved.
As I shut the car door and headed up the slope, preoccupied with what was awaiting me next, I lifted my gaze and was immediately stopped in my tracks. There before me was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen. I stood there amazed and captivated by the soft pastel colours splashed across its trunks. With wide open branches, it seemed to be calling out to me with open arms. “Why have I never noticed it in the past 3 years that I was in COR?” As my eyes took in these delightful colours, I felt my shoulders loosened and my breaths deepened. Peace and joy welled up in my heart. The million and one voices hushed by God’s “Surprise!”
Rev. David Lee