Editor’s note: As Part of FMS’ Lenten blog series, Programs Manager Emily Norton shares the insights she gained from a surprising gift that she received during two FMS retreats she coordinated for our lay missioners during their 3-month long Formation Program, preparing them to serve overseas.

One of the privileges of being the Programs Manager is facilitating a mid-Formation retreat in New York for our missioners-in-training. In 2016, we were grateful to have Sr. Theresa, a Maryknoll sister, lead us through a guided meditation, which had each participant imagine sitting and talking with Jesus, and then receiving a gift from Him.

After a wonderful conversation with Jesus, I just sat there in silence with my eyes shut, feeling perplexed. A gift? I could not envision any gift. I could sense myself giving up on this aspect of the meditation and starting to transition back to the present moment. But I thought: “Focus, Emily! Jesus is trying to give you a gift. You cannot just turn your back and not receive it.” I tried to grasp at my imagination as it was fluttering away, but no more visuals came to me. Instead, softly, like a whisper, one word peeked out of the depths of the scene:

KALEIDESCOPE

Kaleidoscope?! What?! I chuckled at the idea of how incredibly random this was and abruptly opened my eyes as Sr. Theresa invited each of us to share. When it was my turn, all I could say was, “I have no idea how I came up with kaleidoscope.” As soon as I shared, I was immediately struck by my own false words…. I did not come up with it. This was the gift that Jesus, not I, offered. A kaleidoscope.

I was unable to perceive the meaning behind the gift that day, but I promised myself that I would try to reflect more on the significance of it. Although I randomly thought of the meditation once or twice in the months after, I never had any real insights on why Jesus gave me a kaleidoscope.

A Mosaic of Reflections:

A year almost to the exact day of that guided meditation, I was back in New York leading the 2017 mid-Formation retreat for our new class of missioners-in-training when I received my answer.  While walking through the retreat center’s labyrinth I realized that, just as one can see a multitude of geometric patterns through the turn of a kaleidoscope, God was calling me to grow deeper in my spiritual life by looking at the world around me with a fresh, faith-infused perspective.  

Below is a mix of my many reflections on how the gift of kaleidoscope helped me to gain clarity of God’s invitation along with some questions to invite you into the reflection, too.

The Transformative Power of the Divine Light: It fascinates me that, for someone who has never used a kaleidoscope, it may just look like a plain cardboard tube from the outside. It is not until the kaleidoscope is lifted up to the light that its hidden treasures are revealed to the viewer.

It is the same for each person as well.

Do I believe that, like a kaleidoscope, there are hidden treasures within me that I have not yet discovered? Am I willing to let God’s Divine Light shine through me to help me discover my own hidden gifts and beauty? Do I seek to see the Divine Light illuminating the unique beauty of each person I encounter?

The Reflection of Christ’s Beauty: A kaleidoscope’s capacity for beauty is incredible! The ever-changing geometric designs and variations of beauty are a result of a repeated reflection formed by two or more mirrors that are positioned at an angle in the kaleidoscope. When I am struggling to see my strengths, I need God, like the mirror in the kaleidoscope, to reflect my beauty back to me. I also become more aware of a deeper and more intricate sense of beauty in others when I take time to see the vibrant presence of God alive in each person. This reminds me of the Franciscan way of seeing that each person, animal, plant and object created is reflecting the beauty of our Beloved Creator.

When I gaze at myself in a mirror, who do I see staring back at me? Do I see Christ?  As children of God created in the image of Christ, we are each called to strive to see Christ within ourselves. When do I struggle to see God’s beauty within myself? Within others?

The Life-Giving Power of Divine Movement: The one who gazes into the kaleidoscope may be hesitant to twist the tube in fear of shifting the existing – and often mesmerizing – beauty of the geometric pattern that is being shown. However, it is only with the changes and movement of the tube, that one is able to fully recognize the capacity of beauty that a kaleidoscope contains.

I often can become comfortable—too comfortable—in a certain stage of my life or aspect of my life and can be hesitant to initiate change or accept change because I fear having to let go of certain wonderful aspects or gifts currently present in my life, but I need to have the courage to trust that other gifts await me. If I do not take the risk of change and accept the unknown, I will never be able to fully experience the multitude of ways that God wants to manifest His love to me. I need to embrace God’s Divine Movement in my life.

What change in my life or unknown am I most nervous about? In what way, is God inviting me to let go, in order to let God reveal Himself in new and surprising ways to me?

I hope this mosaic of reflections has allowed you to share in my gratitude and wonder for Jesus’ gift to me: a beautiful, ever-changing optical instrument that continues to invite me to look towards Christ’s transformative light and illuminate Our Creator’s majestic beauty. A kaleidoscope.