How often do we really see another person as the beautiful gift they are? Perhaps this happens sometimes with those we love, where we are caught in a moment of grace and see them in all their wondrousness and feel full of gratitude for their presence in our lives.
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We can also bring this practice out into the world. How often do we really see another person beneath their role, under our expectations? What if we paused at the grocery store and for a moment brought eyes of love to the stock clerk or the cashier. They don’t have to know what you’re doing. You don’t have to stare, just take in their image, then close your eyes for a moment, breathe, and bathe them with love. Pause and see the other person as beloved and beautiful as they indeed truly are.
[Christine Valters Paintner, Breath Prayer: An Ancient Practice for the Everyday Sacred (Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2021), 165–166. Quoted on the Center for Action and Contemplation website at https://cac.org/]
The author Christine Valters Paintner invites us to see the other as a gift, as beloved, as beautiful and perfect. The other, she says, can be a cherished loved one as well as a stranger. We are all invited to see how beautiful and perfect our human companions in this life are. And I was thinking that surely this applies to seeing ourselves in the mirror, affirming the beauty and perfection we find there.
I had a moment to reflect on this today. I was listening again to a favorite song that I shared last Sunday in worship: “Seed” by Emma’s Revolution. I don’t have the personal beauty or the gorgeous voice of that singer, I was thinking. And then I realized that I have my own beauty and my own voice. So do you. So does your spouse, so does your baby; so does the nurse who cares for you and so does the person who delivers the mail to your door.
This is an everyday practice of gratitude and love that Christine Valters Paintner invites us into: to appreciate a person we are with, appreciate their wholeness, and to exercise our human capacity to love. Bathe the person in love, she says. I invite us to do that for ourselves as well.
Great Spirit, Wisdom deep within me, hear this prayer. May I remember to appreciate and love those around me. May I take the mindful moment to see the beauty of the next person I encounter. May I hold this love and appreciation for myself next time I see myself in the mirror or on the Zoom screen. May love bless us all.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
January 12, 2022