Seeing Ourselves Today
Editor’s Note: DC Service Corps member, Nadia Barnett reflects on a moment she encountered during a nature meditation and how taking time to notice beauty in everyday life allowed her to more clearly see herself.
On October 30th, I participated in a meditative walk with my fellow FMS missioners in a joint formation session. During the meditation, I came upon these flowers. They were on a path behind a little, unassuming chapel in the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land garden.
Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t much vegetation left thriving in this area. Yet, I found this flower stunning. It is vibrant and appeasing to the eye. Here in the garden, it would be easy to walk by this flower – resting at the top of the vine, hanging over the path. On any other day, it would have been easy to look at this vine of flowers, dying before my very eyes, and keep walking. I almost did. But something about it gave me pause, so I took this picture, as if to say, “Hang in there. I see you. Thank you for this encounter today.” It was easy to admire this flower for managing to hold itself up and offer its beauty to those lucky enough to walk this path.
Before I walked away, I looked at my picture and noticed the state of this flower. Initially, I felt a pang of sadness for it was already blemished, already starting to show signs of weakness, already dying. I sat down in front of the vine and I recognized: the flower is still stunning, and its blemishes don’t change that fact.
Then, I noticed the rest of the flowers on the vine; they had far more blemishes than the first, and yet they, too, were stunning, vibrant, and admirable. There are countless times I’ve tried to be like these flowers – vibrant, admirable, and stunning – and felt like I’ve fallen short. Every time I fall, I must pull myself up and start anew. I lean on my faith, my family, the promise of God’s unconditional love, and my community. None of the aforementioned are bad habits, but they do not allow room to be present, to be wholly seen, to be valued. They are tools I use to “pull myself back up,” so I can continue working for the kingdom of heaven, through my service and relationships.
In the end, I spent 30 mins with these flowers. It was easy to see and accept them as they were, never wanting them to be anything else and also finding, in the silence of our time together, admiration for the beauty they shared with me on a chilly Tuesday afternoon in October. I allowed them to be as they were. Maybe if I had come across this vine in August, I would have found them pristine and unaffected. But I hadn’t. I saw them in October and they were stunning. The fact is, I, too, have blemishes – from all the obstacles that I have weathered, all the violence and injustices committed against my brothers and sisters around the world, all the energy I have continually used to try to pull myself up. I am exhausted. I am frustrated. I am heartbroken. I am not unaffected by the current socio-political climate in the US. But it occurred to me that I must “see” myself as I see the flowers – with open eyes and a compassionate heart, choosing to see the value and beauty.
It was quite peaceful to sit on the ledge of the chapel and admire these three flowers, hanging from a single vine. My encounter with these flowers led me to this reflection: the flowers were a gift to me as I am a gift to others, no matter if I am blooming in the spring, flourishing in the summer, wilting in the fall, or dying when winter comes. Just as I acknowledge the flowers for having blemishes, I must acknowledge my own and recognize they don’t detract from who I am overall. I can only be as I am now: flawed. Admirable. Vibrant and joyful. Resilient.
My ability to “see” these flowers as admirable and as gifts should also extend to myself, for the same God who made the flowers made me. Therefore, it is imperative to give ourselves time to embrace who we are and where we are today. We must remember that God calls us through the Gospel to possess the glory of our Lord. While we strive to work for the kingdom of heaven as Jesus did, we can do ourselves a great disservice by diminishing who we are today. For we are called to love as Jesus did and Jesus loves each of us as we are.
Reflection Question: How often do we “see” ourselves as we presently are?