This past weekend I received a package in the mail containing a letter from a friend and her husband and twelve cards, one with a calendar for each month of the year. Each card has beautiful abstract art on it. In the letter accompanying the package, my friend explained that each card contained a recent example of her husband’s photography. In the letter, he explained his influences for each piece and what it meant to him. It was the most surprising piece of mail I’ve received in a long time and I can’t stop marveling at his art.
Moses is hardly a hero up to this point in his story. He is the cast-off son of a Hebrew woman. He was adopted by an Egyptian royal family until he killed an Egyptian slave owner for beating his Hebrew slave. When he is found out for this crime he flees to Midian where he defends Reuel’s daughters against a bunch of bullying shepherds and helps them water their flock. This is how he comes to be a member of a Midianite family.
Moses doesn’t really belong anywhere. He is not quite Egyptian, not quite Hebrew, and not quite Midianite. It’s no surprise that he wanders with the flock beyond the wilderness. In some sense, Moses’s whole identity is beyond the wilderness.
Moses stops to admire the bush that is burning but not burned up because it is incredible. He puts everything else on pause just to see this one marvelous, beautiful thing.
On New Year’s Eve I was just glad for 2020 to finally be over. It was fun to see friend’s photos as they celebrated the end of a trying year, hoping for something better in 2021. But when I woke up on January 1, 2021 I realized that not much was different. The virus continues to spread. ICU’s continue to fill. The vaccine is not as simple as it seemed just a few weeks ago. The election is still contested by some. Even though I knew I wouldn’t wake up in a new universe, it felt deflating to wake up and realize that it seems I am still somewhere beyond the wilderness.
I think that is what makes the art I received in the mail all that much more surprising and beautiful. Opening that package really made me pause. I read the letter several times in awe of this incredible photography that is described simply as a “hobby.” I looked through each calendar card and really studied and enjoyed each image, reading about them all again.
There were no echoing divine voices when I opened that package. The new year didn’t drastically change much around me, but this new beautiful calendar did change the way I experienced the new year. It gave me an unexpected moment to pause. I set aside the other mail and allowed myself to be amazed and delighted by what another person can do.
Our ability to wonder and find beauty in the world around us is part of what makes us human. We were designed by God to be curious, to be drawn in by beauty, so it is no surprise that we often find God in the moments when we are most in awe.
Though we often look to the major milestones or big markers of time, like New Year’s Day, to give us signs of where we are in space and time, it is actually in pausing to wonder in awe of the beautiful and marevelous things before us that actually anchor our identities. Moses was not going to discover who he was in the wilderness, but in stopping to wonder about something amazing, he came to learn something deep about himself.
I hope you find yourself lost in awe as you wonder at the beauty of the amazing world around you.