The Gospels record that Jesus chooses when he makes himself known after his resurrection. He is perceived as a gardener or a traveler on the road until he calls our name or breaks the bread. His resurrection, then, is a gift of grace. We cannot earn it.
Yet, I wonder how many things I overlook. What can I notice in my daily life?
I invite you to notice the word “notice.” Etymologically, it is related to the ancient and spiritually loaded word for “knowledge” (gnosis). The phrase “to be put on notice” is a serious warning. In contrast, my professor Melissa A. Butler writes that noticing is “the essence of curiosity — a beautiful dance of rigor and play to find more in what’s there through unknowing it.” I love the playful paradox that we notice to “unknow” something, that is, what we thought we knew about it. Taking the time to notice something often reveals that it is more than what we thought it was.
Thinking of the Gospels, Mary Magdalene saw a gardener; she did not notice him. She did not perceive who he really was. I don’t want to be critical of her; she was grieving. Yet, she was not in the moment: “Tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away” (John 20:15). That’s an action plan: she knows what she wants to do in the future.
What if my plan is to become present? How might I notice to unknow my agendas? What might I perceive if I am open to what might be revealed?
Poets invite and instruct. Billy Collins claims that “the soil is full of marvels.” William Blake finds “a heaven in a wildflower.” And Naomi Shihab Nye writes, “Each morning/ birds speak first. Sparrows gossip joyously.” Is noticing that a sparrow is “joyful” unknowing it as just another bird? Is it rediscovering the creature? In some sense is the bird then reborn in my awareness? Is this a resurrection moment?
This much is true: we can notice the world around us. And the act of noticing – rather than overlooking or looking past, rather than judging and moving on – can bring its own surprise and delight. It may even lead to realizations that there is grace just waiting to be received. But don’t just take my word for it; notice the joyful sparrows.