Start Small: Seeing Small

by Hilary Horn

By Kate Kennington Steer

Where do I start writing about where to start? My jobs list for ‘post Christmas’ already ran at two pages before Advent had begun.  I am swamped with what feels like an endless series of administrative and financial tasks and decisions to make, and yet all I want to do is pick up a paint brush, which I have not done since last August.  I try breaking down tasks into smaller and smaller units as all the business advisors seem to suggest, and I am no further forward to ticking them off.  And so things slide, projects slide, and worse of all, people slide off the bottom of the list.  My time/energy quota is so unbalanced by chronic illness and depression that most of the time I feel I am wallowing in the sludge at the very bottom of an extremely deep dark tank, with no hope of getting out; and so there seems little point in wondering about how this year might bring new ideas, projects, possibilities, people to me.

And yet, and yet, and yet … for all the days ‘wasted’, resting in bed with curtains drawn against the sunlight, days where I am unable to muster much more of a prayer than the random thoughts tumbleweeding through my mind, or a migraine insists that even journalling and centering prayer are practices that are beyond my poor head that day … for all that, there always comes a day where there is a spurt within that sometimes feels too angry to be hope, but eventually, eventually, becomes a minute spark providing just enough determination to pick up my mobile phone, turn on its camera, and see what I can see through its lens.  I long to see how I might see God this day, this place, this time, within and through and despite my pain levels and grumpiness.

For whilst New Year celebrations, calendar year turnings, resolutions and new beginnings are being talked about all around me, I have come to realise that the way I get through January, what now even allows me to welcome January, is understanding it as Epiphany Tide: the season of celebrating God’s continued breaking into this world, God’s continued revelation through the people, places and creations of this world as God’s gift to us, with us.  This time between Christmas and Lent might then be treated as a different sort of festive season which is especially designed to make us all seers.  Whether we might call ourselves photographers or not, creating a deliberate retreat time, which may be as little as five minutes, for a masterclass in ways of seeing will, without fail, end up enriching our spirituality.  For this is the promise of Epiphany: that we too might see God.

So my question becomes each Epiphany:  What is it I dream to see?  What is it I need to see?  What is it I cannot see because of all the assumptions and blinkers I drag along behind me?  What is it that my false expectations might blind me to?  What is it I failed to see since last Epiphany?

And what is repeatedly revealed to me, over and again, is the knowledge of God being in the small things right in front of me; God is in the details.  Seeing the mundane minutiae of a breakfast tea tray through the lens of a camera might reveal this miraculous assurance:  God is with me, in this, here and now.  

This tiny creation of an ‘act of daily seeing’, receiving images on a device that can be at my fingertips wherever I might happen to be, allows me to start again with God.  It is also a very physical reminder of what my Mum repeatedly says to me, ‘small steps, Katie’.  This in turn always reminds me of going on the journey of faith in the way the old French pilgrims called ‘pas a pas’, step by deliberate step.  So that what begins as one small image builds up into a week of images, then into a month of images and so on.  Before long I can see I have a collection, a mosaic of some of the minute ways in which God has met me in the past weeks in gifts of line, colour, texture, shape and light.  

I have adopted the phrase ‘the epiphany of the ordinary’ to cover this contemplative practice, and it always drives me to praise and thanksgiving.  (Sharing my ‘acts of daily seeing’ on Facebook and Instagram also reminds me to continue this gratitude practice: I give them away in the hope that they might help provide a pause in someone else’s day, a kind of ‘showing forth’ space where the Spirit of Seeing might rush in, bringing someone to the God who lovingly waits for them in their here and now).  For, like a toddler who needs to be told over and again, I so easily forget just how much there is to Wonder at and about in this world.  I groan out loud at my own ridiculousness, swallow, breathe as deeply as that day allows and, receiving the Grace of beginning again, ask for the gift of Epiphany, the gift of eyes being opened to see.

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