In A Testament of Devotion, Thomas Kelly describes the practice of “ordering our mental life on more than one level at once.” He gives two – the external demands of our world and what we often call internal / mental / spiritual reality. He’s putting words to the fact that we are able to go about our lives doing one thing, while at the same time thinking primarily about another. I can be thinking about what to eat for lunch while writing an email, or considering the Lakers’ chances of winning a title this year while sitting in a meeting. There are no doubt problems in dividing the world into the categories “mental” and “physical,” or internal and external, but you get the point. Kelly sees this second level as a place where we commune with God, the place where the Light resides, the place where we worship and pray and adore God while going about our business; this he calls the real real world, not because the rest does not matter but because only here can the other be truly discerned and faithfully engaged. Or as he puts it,
Facts remain facts, when brought into the Presence in the deeper level, but their value, their significance, is wholly realigned. Much apparent wheat becomes utter chaff, and some chaff becomes wheat. Imposing powers? They are out of Life, and must crumble. Lost causes? If God be for them, who can be against them? Rationally plausible futures? They are weakened or certified in the dynamic Life and Light. Tragic suffering? Already He is there, and we actively move, in His tenderness, toward the sufferers. Hopeless debauchees? These are children of God, His concern and ours. Inexorable laws of nature? The dependable framework for divine reconstruction. The fall of a sparrow? The Father’s love.
Aside from the fact that “debauchees” is just a good word, what catches my attention here is the final example. Something about Jesus enabled him to look at a sparrow’s fall and see God’s Fatherly love for the world, so much so that he encouraged us to forego our lifeless worries and incessant economic planning in favor of reckless faith. There was something in Jesus, perhaps we could call it a place, where sparrows became signs of something greater. Perhaps that place lies within us all. If so, mine is all too dormant all too much of the time! Fallen sparrows, if I even notice them, register not as signs of God’s love but as . . . well, fallen sparrows. Maybe only eyes that see sparrows can see the beauty and power of the way of the cross, as well as how much and how often we’ve missed it. Maybe truly seeing sparrows enables us to see larger psychological, economic, emotional, and political crises in their right light. I think I’d like to see it all.