I love this photograph I took on the Fourth of July. Our extended family had spent the day frolicking in a nearby lake. After our fingers had wrinkled to ridges and our skin had overindulged on vitamin D, we loaded up the vehicle and headed home.
Typically, the zany antics of children en route to a fun-filled activity tend to wane into snoozing and silence during the return trip. But this time it was different. Though my niece's body was probably fatigued from hours of swimming, her imagination was anything but. As we traveled down a hilly country road, she decided to roll down the window. A sixty-mile-per-hour slipstream whistled past, air moving much too quickly for her to stick her head out. Or was it?
An idea in her head suddenly flickered to light and glowed. There were goggles in the car. They had protected her eyes from the lake water, why not from the rushing wind? And so my niece grabbed the goggles and placed them on her head like a WWI aviator. Contact. Lift off. Head out the window. Imagination airborne!
Hearing squeals of laughter tumbling about in the currents of an opened window, I turned around. There was my niece with a huge toothy grin, her lips flapping and fluttering. The edges of her smile stretched back to her earlobes. And that's when I saw it. There was something more going on than just a girl having a blast and living in the moment. She had caught hold of something elusive just long enough for me to see it: a joy set free by a vivid imagination. I was witnessing childhood in all its beauty and purity. I captured the image on my phone, and it set me to thinking about my own life.
I wondered what it would be like if the step of my present and future was influenced by such an imagination, not childish in nature but childlike. How would my view of myself, others, and the greater world be altered by seeing with fresh, imaginative, and hopeful eyes?
My thoughts reminded me of words spoken by Jesus when he said that unless one becomes like a child he or she can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of God. He seemed to indicate that the road to truth can only be found by taking on the mindset of a child: teachable, humble, creative, and able to believe the unbelievable. It makes sense that there was such a prerequisite, for how else would anybody be able to see and accept the One who walked on water, multiplied fish, healed the terminally ill, and raised the dead, unless he or she had the wondrous mind of a child?
It is this type of mindset that I believe we all need to adopt. Unfortunately, for myself and others, it is one that tends to get buried and lost in life’s clutter. That once variegated, spontaneous, and imaginative thought that could fashion fantastical, new worlds, envision unanticipated inventions, and propose unconventional solutions to problems disappears.
But the encouraging news is that one is never too old to begin growing young again. So strap on your googles and get ready to stick your head out the window!
What a lovely experience a Mistaken Morning is. See if you find them as lovely as I do by reading the short Thinkwave excerpt below.
"Mistaken Mornings don’t happen all that frequently, and no doubt this is one of the reasons that make them so savory when they do. They occur when you wake up in the morning and mistakenly connect the new day with the wrong day of the week. Imagine that you wake up at 6:00 a. m., for example, and in your mind, you have the unpleasant notion that it’s Monday morning, another laborious day of school or work.
The long day looms ahead. The shadows lengthen. But just as you have reluctantly determined to emerge from your cozy cocoon, your ears and nose perk up. You hear the hum of lawn mowers outside your window and catch a whiff of cooking pancakes and bacon. “Mowers, pancakes, and bacon...” you think. “Why would this be happening on a…” And that’s when you realize you’ve made a wonderful mistake. A glorious mistake! It’s not Monday at all. It’s Saturday! No school, no work, and most importantly, no need, other than pancakes and bacon, to get out of bed. Your heart slows, your mind clears, and smiles fly free."
One of my favorite artists is Edward Hopper. This might be surprising to you if you are familiar with his works. So many of them are rather bleak and depressing. His subject matter is often empty cityscapes, abandoned, run-down homes, or disengaged men and women, isolated and alone even when in public places such as cafes or trains. His most famous painting is Nighthawks, in which three people at a diner’s counter appear to be lost or perhaps even overwhelmed by their thoughts. Recently developed fluorescent lights create a harsh, cold atmosphere, and from the viewer’s perspective, there is no visible door, conveying the idea of entrapment, as if the patrons are animals enclosed in a terrarium. Recurrent in many of his paintings is a shade of green that has the effect of absorbing any warmth in the scene that would have been present if not for this color.
You may be wondering at this point, why I, or anyone for that matter, would enjoy such paintings. To begin with, like mostuch art, they are cathartic, and can act as healing agents through their resonance with our troubling experiences. But beyond that, in my opinion, the works of Hopper viscerally communicate the human condition. They depict man as he really is: lost, stumbling through life, and grappling with purpose and meaning. In essence, Hopper is painting truth, pictorial philosophy if you will. And most importantly, his works prime the soul and heart to receive the remedy for man’s bleak condition.
When the incarnate God became man and walked among us, he likened man to a lost sheep without a shepherd. Jesus declared his mission when he said, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” The point is that we can only receive the cure for our condition when we realize our condition, and Hopper’s art does just that. It reflects our own soul’s desperate search for hope, meaning, and most especially, life. And when we cry out for these, He hears and offers them in abundance.
Why do I believe this? My life was once tinged with the very same green as many of Hopper’s paintings. I too was lost, stumbling through life, and grappling with purpose and meaning. It was from this state of desperation I cried out. The terrarium was shattered and a life set free.
Today, I encourage you to peruse some of Hopper’s works, but don’t stop there. There’s much more beyond the paintings waiting for you.