The words are easy to miss. Stamped small over a dark ocean wave towards the bottom, there it is. Three calm, coppery words. A quiet invitation: Look up sometimes.
It was a housewarming gift we received from my parents three years ago. A painting of the sea at sunset, by Seward Whitfield. A stunning shadowbox showcases real oyster shells and a glass marble positioned to look like a pearl. The painting is large and I stand before it soaking in delight.
I am intrigued by the message. And…slightly irritated. I see a spiritual parallel forming, but my internal recovering perfectionist doesn’t like the word sometimes. Why so wishy-washy? Shouldn’t it be standard operating procedure for someone who claims to follow Jesus to look up all the time? It should say always. Somewhere in the bible it talks about that… I locate two verses that spring to mind: Psalm 121:1-2 and Hebrews 12:1b-2a.
See? It should say always instead of sometimes. The inner perfectionist smiles smug. It’s a nice painting, but it’s flawed. Case closed.
But…I’m not satisfied with that. There’s a call from the deep in these words that is simple but not simplistic.
For one thing, logically and practically, you can’t look up all the time. We look all sorts of directions for various reasons. Even in a spiritual sense we look around to help others, back to learn from history, forward to heaven…
And what of the object of our vision? Is Jesus always up? One of his last acts on earth was to stoop down and wash his disciples’ feet. Humble acts of service conjure up the idea of being in a relative down position.
And I saw, as if for the first time, the word fix in the Hebrews verse. You don’t fix something that isn’t broken. My gaze needs fixing again and again. So look up sometimes. Like, many times a day! In that sense, sometimes could be defined as frequently or as often as necessary.
But was I just trying to make meaning where there wasn’t any? I like a good analogy, but maybe this was hogwash. Or maybe not? I decided to dig deeper.
In the NIV bible, I found the phrase look up or looked up about 50 times. Over half of these references are directly tied to God’s provision. And an argument could be made that God’s provision is still an underlying theme, though not overtly stated, in most of the remaining cases.
This recurring theme of looking up to see and embrace God’s provision is what forms this blog.
What I know should be true of me collides with reality. But I’ve been washed in sunset colored waves and made clean by perfection, himself (2 Cor 5:21). Sunset marked the beginning of a new day, according to Jewish time-keeping. When the waves of life pull me under, I can look up and see the pearls He’s forming. His provision in the tumult. The perfectionist in me sits down, defeated.
It’s so easy to forget to look up. I mess up and look down in shame. I look around and compare; joy shrivels. I look back and get stuck in the past. How much more wholeness could be mine if I could hear the gentle, not-condemning, invitation to look up sometimes? How much faster could fear be defeated?
I’m learning in both the big things and the small, I can look up and embrace God’s provision.
Care to join me? Consider this space your quiet invitation.