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Missing the Beauty Before Us

Sunday evenings are typically very relaxed in our household. And when I say “relaxed,” I mean “lazy.” At least on my part. After the excitement and activity of the morning, I usually end up trying to do a few productive things like folding a few pieces of laundry or taking a walk. But at some point, usually by late afternoon, I land in a chair or on the couch unable to do much beyond muttering a few words or smiling gratefully at my family.

This past Sunday after settling down in my chair, I actually had enough energy to noodle around on Facebook for awhile. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Facebook, it’s a way to keep in touch with friends and to find out what they are doing and thinking on any given day without actually having to talk to them. Just the perfect activity for a lazy Sunday afternoon!)

Anyway, one of the things I came across was an article posted by one of our church members. It was about an experiment that the Washington Post had done in 2007. They invited Joshua Bell, a world-renowned violinist, to play his violin in the middle of a subway station to see if anyone would notice. With delicacy and grace he played one of the most complicated and beautiful pieces ever written for the violin, on an instrument that cost $3.5 million. Two nights before his appearance in the subway station, he had played a sold-out hall in Boston at an average ticket price of $100.

Did people stop? Did the beauty and wonder of the music break through their busyness and make them slow down? A few people paused, threw a dollar or two into his violin case and then quickly moved on. A few children tried to stop, turning their heads at the gorgeous sounds coming from the stranger’s violin, but they were hurried along by their parents. And when Joshua Bell stopped playing, no one applauded or even noticed.

At first, my reaction was to judge the people who couldn’t recognize beauty when it was right in front of them. I couldn’t believe their callousness. How can you scurry past? How can you be so caught up in getting where you’re going that you’re blind to the glory right beside you? But then I realized that I would have done the same thing. I mean, his playing in the subway was totally out of context. Who expects a world famous violinist in a Metro station? I feel sure I would have walked right on by. Who knows how many times I have missed beauty, grace, wonder and glory right in front of me because I’ve been on my way to something else? Or because it was “out of context” and I wasn’t looking for it?

We are heading into the final week of Advent. We are more hurried. More stressed. We have more to do, plans to make, places to go. We are like those people scurrying through the subway on our way to somewhere else. But glory is all around us. Beauty is closer than we think. The love of our wondrous God has drawn very close. Let us be ready. Let us slow down. Open our ears. Keep our eyes on the children, because they might notice it before we do. Let’s be on the lookout, ready at any moment to stop and take it all in.