Look Into My Eyes (5YTL)

SMr Rogersteady now…  We don’t want to miss a thing.

For just a little while, I want us both to agree to put down the phones.  I want us to turn off the television, turn down the music, ignore the other people around us, forget about the other attractive people in the area, disregard other voices echoing around us, and just look into each others’ eyes.

You are my friend, my coworker, my spouse, my cashier, my server, my pastor, my sibling, my customer, a child, and a stranger.  We’ve been so distracted by everything around us that we haven’t really seen each other in a long time.  From text messages, to flashy billboards, to ambient music, to email alerts, to the television in the background, to phones ringing, to overhead announcements, to thoughts about the day’s schedule and obligations, we’ve disconnected, and in this moment, we’re going to reconnect.

I want to see you as the person that you are.  I want to peel off all the labels I’ve assigned to you and acknowledge the human being that you are, with your motivations, fears, hopes, commitments, beliefs, convictions, and your passions.  I want to see you as a person and not an object.

In doing so, I want you to see me similarly.  I want you to see that I’m sometimes very vulnerable.  I’m human, so I’m also far from perfect.  Sometimes I don’t look you in the eyes, because I don’t want you to see my imperfections.  In this moment, I’m trusting you to see me fully and experience the joy that I have to share with you.  I want it to be evident to you that I’m sincerely interested in you and that I am invested in you, if only for this brief moment.

We can do this.  We can look each other in the eyes and see each other again.  We can tune out the rest of the world for a brief time and focus on each other fully.  We can forget about that Tweet we were going to send, forget about the Facebook post that we meant to Like, and trust that the Pin we wanted to Pin to our board will be there when we’re done here.

Being present here together means that we see each other fully and plainly.  How many times a day can we do this?  How much more invested and interested in each other will we be when this becomes our norm, instead of the exception?

We’re in this together.  Tomorrow Begins Today.

Playing With Fire (5YTL)

In the year just before I became a teenager, I was a budding, amateur firebug. My Mom was a cigarette smoker. In those early days, I was a fairly severe asthmatic, and I preached regulary to both of my parents about the effects of secondhand smoke in our home (with no effect).

Our modest home had baseboard heaters. It was not a very efficient way to heat a home, but it is what we had. One late afternoon, my mother had been ironing something and had left the ironing board set up in our dining room, close to an inside wall where there was a working baseboard heater. I had taken an interest in the lighter my mother kept perched upon her pack of cigarettes and wondered how effectively it would light the dangling string descending from the ironing board.

With my mother in the den on the other side of the house, I learned that cotton drawstrings are very flammable and an excellent conductor of fire to larger cloth surfaces, like ironing board covers. At first, I thought I had this under control. I raced to the bathroom to get a glass of water to extinguish the growing fire, but I didn’t imagine the height of flame one small spark was capable of producing. It was impressive!

My mom came from nowhere. I honestly only saw a streak of fire flash through the dining room, out the kitchen door, and onto the driveway just outside, six feet below the porch. There was yelling, smoke, heat, panic, and fear. Most of the fear was actually mine, to be honest, because I knew the origin of this fire, and this was not going to be good.

Once back inside, Mom was a wreck. I could see the concern and fear in her eyes for what could have happened in this scenario. She came right for me. In one quick, swooping motion she had me completely enveloped and was hugging me tightly. She was so relieved that I wasn’t injured that she just hugged me while cursing those “damn baseboard heaters.”

Seriously? Had she really blamed the heater? Oh… My…. God…. I was off the hook! I quickly jumped right on that story and was all but shouting “AMEN!” at the accusations she was heaving at those evil wall-bound appliances. “It could have killed us…” I would claim. “Those things can’t be safe!” I would say, shaking my head from side to side. It’s not really bearing false witness if the perpetrator is an inanimate object, is it? I began to pray a prayer I would later come to know as the drinking prayer. “God, if you just let me live through this, I will never_________ again!” He was, too! He was going to let me live to see another day.

When Mom and I were both sufficiently exhausted from our condemnation of baseboard heaters, we were cleaning everything up that was streaked with black from the flames and ashes. I was sweeping the floor when Mom took the drinking cup back to the bathroom. We would head outside to retrieve the ironing board next and clean it up as well.

Then, it happened. Mom came in the dining room with a brand new fire in her eyes. She looked at me with hot anger, and I knew her look of hot anger very well. I saw her wild eyes and the terse tightness of her pursed lips. Her shoulders were rigid from betrayal, and her outstretched hand was shaking as it clenched her cigarette lighter.

“Shit” was all I could think.