One day in Your courts is better than a thousand in my own room. Psalm 84:9
Merton wrote this shortly after his transformative experience at the corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville (now Muhammad Ali Boulevard). At this intersection, Merton says, “I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness. . . .” This is an experience of universal love, which I would define as recognizing one’s self in the other.
A bit further on, Merton writes, “Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes.” –Richard Rohr
And I get it.
This is my “corner of Fourth and Walnut in Louisville.” Except mine is a corner coffee shop in Istanbul. And for a moment I saw with the eyes of my heavenly Father.
“Each who walks by, an image-bearer. So many cups of tea and Marlboro cigarettes. A sad-eyed lady with an accordion and her twirling little girl dressed in pink holding a paper cup. A father jostling a tired infant. Three young Turks leaning up against a doorstep flirting with a shy shopkeeper. And yet another calico cat. Just now the five times a day call for prayer has begun, called down from every minaret reaching for the sky.”
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. -Jesus
And I have had a few more such moments. In Washington Dulles airport, when I flew in for the National Spelling Bee. And the midnight avenues in Barcelona. And an early morning stroll through a small village in Guatemala, nestled under the volcanoes.
And I just this moment got a Facebook bing from Nicole, waiting in the Istanbul airport, between Nairobi and picking up her bicycle in Rome. Even the airport, I totally love.
And once one has stepped into His courts, even for a moment, My own room, my Self and me and mine, is revealed as small and shabby and false.
May this day I dwell in Your courts.
As I bury myself into curriculum maps and two weeks of lesson plans and how am I going to charge all of those Macbooks and log into Schoolmaster, may I remember each one of those Image bearers who walked through my doors Tuesday afternoon to meet the new teacher.
Red and yellow, black and white. They are precious in His sight.
And today I am going to write on that cool black chalkboard paper that Joe got me: The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. –Marcel Proust
And may I push back the shabby walls stapled with Character Counts and quotes from Einstein and and Learning Objectives and I still don’t have a white board, and lift up my eyes, to meet His gaze.
And look upon the secret beauty of their hearts.