Life Lessons

Learning To See Clearly

I had never paid much attention to the lilies until they were out of focus

We’re at a little church that we’ve visited several times lately. It’s just a big country church with good, friendly people.

Nothing fake here.

There is one problem, however. And I hate to bring it up.

But …

There are pieces of artwork on either side of the front wall, on both sides of the preacher. It’s metal ironwork with curves and circles.

The iron forms a fleur de lis, a flower lily. It’s the symbol that the New Orleans Saints NFL football team uses. It’s also the symbol numerous churches have used for thousands of years.

Sometimes people use the fleur de lis to refer to Mary the mother of Jesus, or to the Holy Spirit, or as a symbol of the Trinity.

It’s flexible like that.

But the lily, per se, isn’t the problem.

The difficulty here is worthy of a Sunday-afternoon-long congregational meeting to discuss. Naps would be missed, football games would go unseen, and meals uneaten.

So, here it is — the big problem:

When I try to focus my eyes, from our seats in the back of the auditorium, the lilies are all just a blur.

I’ve tried to focus, but my eyes get tired and I lose track of the sermon.

I mean, we love this little church, I just wish they could get the lilies to focus.

I suppose if I believed, as did Augustine, that there were hidden meanings behind every chair, tree, or lily, I might think there’s a message here.

I thought about asking if there was an optometrist who might be able to explain this unfortunate discrepancy with the obviously ill-conceived artwork, but never got around to it.

It’s really distracting!

The preacher is good, but just eight feet on either side of him are out of focus lilies crying out for clarity.

Maybe it’s just my aging eyes.

I’ve been known to see things that weren’t there before and to completely misunderstand the meaning of things.

And sometimes life-changing events can overwhelm me and make me unable to see clearly.

And it can be painful.

Sometimes the events are a Sunday morning phone call from a very upset brother yelling and upset that our mom has just gone.

And I can’t see clearly.

Or late-night call from a distraught sister that that same brother is suddenly gone.

And I can’t see clearly.

Or a frantic call from a daughter that she was just in a wreck, but she’s okay, but that she’s gotta go because the ambulance is here.

And I can’t see clearly.

I just need clarity.

So, today at church, we sit a little closer to the front.

Trust me, it was only because we were late. This would never happen on a normal day when there were perfectly reasonable empty seats in the back of the auditorium.

And there it is again.

Staring at me indignantly and out of focus.

The Artwork.

The fleur de lis.

The Lilies.

But, because I’m closer, I see them better.

The ironwork casts a thin shadow on the wall behind.

Which, from a distance, makes all of them out of focus.

Problem solved! No optometrist needed.

At this closer distance…

I can make out the shadows behind each curve.

And it all makes sense to me now.

And I see the metal lily apart from the shadow it casts on the wall.

It’s a good thing that I don’t really believe in hidden meanings and such.

But the view from here makes the Lily a little easier to see.

And sometimes even pain becomes more bearable.

I’ve never really paid much attention to lilies.

But, today they clearly look beautiful.

Paul Swann is a dad, husband to a Russian Princess, lawyer, legal instructor, writer, and occasional guitar player. He spends his time in Arkansas with his aforementioned Princess Bride, Two Stunning Daughters, and two ne’er-do-well dogs. You may find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or his Medium Page.

Satire, humor, Russia, and life lessons. I’m a dad, husband, and writer.

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