A Second Look

We are all of us more mystics than we believe or choose to believe – life is complicated enough as it is, after all. We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves… Buechner

Years ago, I worked as a chaplain in a Trenton, New Jersey, hospital. Part of the work: pick an encounter with a patient or staff member and write it up, word for word. These verbatims were designed to raise awareness of how our own assumptions and histories influenced how we interacted with others. Generally, most of us chose encounters that were particularly difficult or meaningful.

One week, my supervisor changed the rules. Pick an ordinary interaction – a quick hello in an elevator, a brief conversation at the nurses’ station. Something forgettable. And so I did. I doubt there were more than fifty words altogether, and none of them remarkable. But there was a holiness to it that I could only see because I took a second look at it.

A mystic is someone who sees that holiness at first glance – or at least knows it’s there, seen or unseen. And a mystic is willing to admit it.

[Frederick Buechner; Listening to Your Life; San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 168]

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