My husband and I have a dog, Roger. He scares easily, hates being alone, and yawns more frequently than any living being I’ve ever met. We have big love for this little pup.
However, one of the most miserable experiences to share with Roger is driving on the highway. He hates it. The car goes too fast, the noises are too loud, and there are no sufficient places to hide. When we make the 5-hour drive to visit our Chicago-area family, Roger’s anxiety takes up most of the space in our car.
His stress is most heightened while we pass a semi-truck. When his little face looks out the window, all he can see is the wall-like side of the truck accompanied by the roar of its engine. He is anything but calm until we pass the truck and his senses realize it was all just temporary—the thundering monstrosity was only a vehicle that we breezed right past. Roger’s limited perspective, however, keeps him from seeing that. He cannot take in the entire picture, so he’s left shaking in his fur until the “threat” is behind us.
I laugh and roll my eyes at Roger until I realize the frequency at which my limited perspective pulls me into fear’s abyss. How many times do I look at my circumstances and immediately get small and scared?
It doesn’t feel great to share that I feel afraid. I’d rather tell you that I am only ever brave; would you even believe that? It doesn’t matter because it is not true. I am sometimes brave, sometimes afraid. It’s easy to read the news, hear of friends in crisis, or worry about my own future and, before I know it, all I see is a threat without even understanding what it is or how it’s working.
When I hold Roger on my lap as we drive past a semi-truck, his hair raised and body trembling, I always wish I could tell him, in a language he can understand, that there is no need to be afraid. I’m sure that God feels the same about my fears of what may be.
Anne Lamott says: “Pay attention to the beauty surrounding you.” There’s a lot I’m not in control of (dang it and hallelujah), but I can choose to open my perspective and take in more of the beauty around me. This doesn’t mean I turn a blind eye to injustice or tragedy. I think paying attention to the beauty rather than the threat means that whatever is on the news only leads me to better love my neighbor—regardless of their skin color, sexual orientation, or religion. I think it means I sit with my friends in crisis, infusing faith into the circumstance rather than allowing the crisis to smother us. I think it means I embrace the goodness that is “right now” in my world, rather than what may or may not be in the future. The beauty is in promoting and calling out justice, love, equality, and faith. It’s seeing that although that thing outside of the window is huge and scary, I am in the arms of someone who is safe and loves me.
“Don’t be fooled,” Yrsa Daley-Ward writes, “the world is still gorgeous.”
Is it? I wonder, as I look out my window into the world and see hatred and addiction and why does news of a shooting sound normal? It’s scary. It’s big and loud. I am afraid.
But . . .
But the world is still gorgeous. We have to help each other pay attention to the beauty surrounding us. We have to be safe and empathetic people. We have to speak kindly and confidently to one another, like I do with Roger, saying, “I know you are afraid, but I am here and I am not leaving.”
The world is still gorgeous, as long as we don’t allow the things that are scary to run us right over. It is not only ever gorgeous, but it is gorgeous still, and we have to be people who see, call out, and create the beauty.