A Hidden Life in the Ordinary

March 22, 2015 at 10:24 am

It is early morning in Hyderabad.  I am still stunned how I landed here and hope that it is replicated  in my life somehow upon returning to the US.  I sit on a fourth floor balcony.  Our neighbor’s yard is a good size lot filled with trees that make a home for a multitude of birds.  There must be some small fruit.  8-12 birds the size of cardinals are in constant motion with the sun rising behind them.  They have a black crown and are much less colorful than a North American cardinal in that their wings and tail are brown and  their breasts are  gray.  There is a spot of white at the base of the tail feathers and a splash of red appears  as they energetically flit among the branches.  There are tiny birds about half  the size of a wren with thin beaks as long as their body.  Their song is unexpectedly loud.  Its volume is like a cardinal’s.     In the midst of this, suddenly a bright green parrot swiftly flies past the edge of my balcony.  A rooster crows down the street.  The eagles seemed to have left the mango tree while we were gone the past couple of weeks. There are a few butterflies present with their jerky but graceful passage through the air as they seek to escape the beaks of birds who are waiting for breakfast and to quickly dart out from the limbs of the trees.   Later even at the moment that I say  “Thank You,”  a bright yellow bird with black wings flies past to land on a limb in full view.

It is our Garden of Eden.  A sacrament or an encounter with God’s presence in our lives.   The God of surprises blessed our life in India with this sanctuary in the midst of a crazy and chaotic city.  It feels like the medicine of the Lord seeking to restore me to sanity and health after the intense but good years of life in public accounting.  No matter what one does, there are wounds to be bathed and healed.   Here is a spot where I feel and recognize  my hardness of heart that comes from cultivating and nursing bitterness, resentments, and  jealousies.  Hopefully I can  begin to move past them to a better place of knowing both that I am forgiven and how to forgive.  Much of the pain is a result of my own arrogance and pride.  As someone once said:  “Pain is in proportion to the need for purification.”  Feeling the pain also puts me  in touch with my kinship with all the children of God.  Our fragile packages have all been broken, diminished, misunderstood.

I read a quote this morning in Courage to Change from Albert Schweitzer:  “ The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”    As I have probably previously written, Schweitzer has been a favorite of mine since my dad gave me a Landmark biography to read as a kid.  He lived as a doctor in the African jungle working with the sick and needy.  I was surprised to find when I reached college that he was one of the leading New Testament scholars and pioneers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who sought  the Historical Jesus.    Apparently, his understanding of the Jesus of history led him to service in Africa. While admittedly and obviously not as heroic,  I thought that public accounting also provided an avenue to service.

Martin recently shared with Kathleen and I that service is a major ingredient in the transforming sauce that Bill W prescribes.  As Holy Thursday approaches, it is one of the few direct commands that Jesus gave us as he washed the feet of his disciples.   I have always admired how our friends Kathy and Mary have poured out their lives in service as nurses.  Not to mention our own Timothy who has managed to thrive in a high school classroom for almost 4 decades.  They are the hidden ordinary saints found in every age quietly doing the Lord’s work.