Brave Enough to Notice

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.

We’re not very good at noticing things nowadays. 

Subtle things, at least. I notice this too, now, as I attempt to harness my easily-wayward attention to the plow of turning ideas and feelings into words. I notice how long it’s been since I stopped to just…notice. I realize I just recently spent a full day traveling across the country, yet could tell you few things about any one of the thousands of human beings I crossed paths with. 

Maybe it’s because our calendars are often packed down to the minute. Maybe it’s because we’re good at trying to carry more than God created our bodies to be able to handle. Maybe it’s because we train ourselves out of being present and into being preoccupied. 

Whatever the reason, we — myself included in “we” — are subsequently not very good at noticing the subtle. My ability to be fully present in a moment feels like one with growing pains. Something that’s still unfinished, a work in progress. 

When I was a kid, I developed a love for tiny little flowers — in large part because it felt like they were things that nobody really noticed, but that held so many wonders if you leaned close to look. And yet as an adult, I’m substantially skilled at sprinting right by such moments without a second glance.

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Sometimes I think it’s brave to lean into the race, to shove everything else away with singularity of focus, to push as hard as we can toward the finish line. But other times, the bravest thing we can do is let go of the rush, stop, and be present in the moment God just handed to us. 

Perhaps “noticing things” ought to be a discipline as much as it is a spontaneous gesture. Not the kind of forced-endurance of something negative that we often associate with the word “discipline”, but the kind of regular practices that form life-giving habits — carved-out channels for water to reach every dry corner of our lives. 

When we’re present in a single moment, there are so many subtle things for us to notice. The feather threads of a tiny, miniature bit of moss. The tiny streaks of color in little petals. The life-worn contours of a loved one’s hands. The wisp of a breeze on our necks. The warmth of the sun soaking through clothes to touch our skin. The nuanced vocal colors of a familiar voice.  

You know what’s amazing? Our failure to notice things doesn’t make them vanish. Tiny flowers are still there, bobbing when a breeze dips low enough to touch them, even when we don’t ever lay eyes on them. Wind still turns leaves into dancers, even when no one looks up. The sun still glints silver on lakes and rivers, even when no human is there to see it. Our dearest friends’ hearts are still there, even when we don’t take the time to connect. We still get to hear our loved ones’ voices, even when we pay not the slightest bit of attention. 

God didn’t have to lavish detail on the beauty around us, but He chose to anyway. What does it say of us that we are unwilling to take the time to see it? 

He didn’t have to allow so many little gifts to be in the “everyday”, the “ordinary” — hours and days and seconds that are much the same as those before and those to come. But He did anyway. What does it say of us that we refuse to accept them?

He didn’t have to choose to love us so extravagantly, or to color our worlds so beautifully with glorious, infinitesimal detail. He didn’t have to give us emotions or dreams or friends or lovers or starlight or seasons or sunsets. But He did anyway. 

What would it say of us if we were people who cherished every beautiful detail of those incredible gifts?

Perhaps this week, the bravest thing we can do is appreciate the extravagant love God has poured into the subtle, the ordinary, the unnoticeable, by simply stopping, leaning in — with glasses if we must — and looking. And whispering a heartfelt thank you for what we see. 

This week, may we be brave enough to notice.