There are a lot of ordinary things in the world. That is, by definition, what ordinary is. Flowers growing in a field. Birds flying effortlessly in the sky. Farmers planting their seed in the earth. Fish swimming in the deep blue sea.
We tend to see past the ordinary. We drive to work or to the store, and our eyes do not see the beauty that whizzes by our windows. There’s a long line of trees that I pass by every day on my way to work, young and green and hopeful. They stretch their tiny branches up to the sky, catching rays of sunlight, catching bits of life in every single leaf. Intricate and delicate stems intersect their way down to a fledgling but sturdy trunk and underground to unseen roots below. In their own way and by their very design, they declare the glory of God. But I do not see the trees, I do not see the leaves, I do not see the life abounding. I only see the traffic lights.
Jesus saw things very differently than us. He saw the lilies, the birds, the budding fig tree, the sheep in the pasture, the little children, the vine and the branches. And in His seeing, He saw Truth.
Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven was like treasure hidden in a field, and like a merchant looking for fine pearls, and like a very tiny mustard seed. He warned us of the plank in our own eyes, the wolves in sheep’s clothing, and the house built on sand. He called us salt and He called us light. He was trying to explain to us the very mysteries of the universe—God’s plan and God’s Kingdom—and he chose the ordinary things to convey them.
There is a lesson to be learned here, I think. Jesus had an extremely poetic, artistic view of life. And this should not surprise us. The Bible says that the whole of the universe, the whole of creation, was created through him and for him (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, 1 Corinthians 8:6, etc.). Think about that—the creative muse of the Trinity flowed through the person of Jesus. So his view of life allowed Him to be open to the beauty and truth that surrounded Him, even in the most tenuous, desert-drenched, poverty-stricken circumstances. And if we are to be more like him, we need to have eyes that see like him, have a mind that is open to a God revealed in the ordinary.
Do we understand that there is a type of Truth in a line of trees? And that same Truth can be found in a child’s laughter, or a winsome melody, or a formation of geese flying south for the winter? The birds don’t realize that we humans—in the depths of our slumber and the yearnings of our souls—dream of flying. Birds just fly. The trees don’t realize that photosynthesis is an astounding miracle. And a child, in her laughter, does not realize how sacred is their being.
There’s a somewhat archaic word I wish we would use more: Mindfulness. To be full of mind, that is, to have our minds attuned to the things around us, to the things of God. For nothing is truly ordinary in God’s created order.
There is an implication here. If this is true, then that same Truth in the trees can exist in a photograph of the trees, or a painting of the trees, or a song about the trees. Because our artwork is an extension of God’s artwork. Art is re-creation, an echo of creation. And if you think about it in this way, then we as artists must aspire to ordinary things.
“What a wildly wonderful world, God! You made it all, with Wisdom at your side, made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.” Psalm 104:24 The Message
[Note: Artwork is “Endless Battle (Tree Story #141)” by Judith Monroe. Black & white photograph with mixed media on cradled wood panel, including actual leaves and a poem written specifically for this image by a poet in Sweden. I encourage you to check out Judith’s Portfolio.]