“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” ~Paul (Philippians 4:8)
When I was living in Boston, riding the subway nearly everywhere, I really enjoyed the street performers. There was such a variety – vocal, harmonica, saxophone, hurdy-gurdy, guitar, flute, harp, juggling, and more. At first, I would always listen but kept my eyes turned toward the train tracks, usually with my back to the musician. I noticed that very few others seemed to notice the musicians as they went on their normal way, not breaking their strides, and this frustrated me.
So I did an experiment. Every time I saw a musician, I turned my body directly toward them (even if that meant facing the opposite direction of the crowd), and I watched them intently. A stunning thing happened, everywhere I went – others started looking at me and then looking at what I was looking at. They began to pay direct attention to the musician! Once or twice I even saw someone miss their train to stay and listen. Another fun result of the experiment was that the regular musicians at my regular platforms began to recognize me, and our relationship (mostly in glances and smiles) grew deeper, becoming a part of my city life that I cherished.
The word “witness” is used 200 times in the New Testament, my favorite of which is “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” (Hebrews 12:1) Usually we talk about that in court language – witnesses are those who make a case or argument for what is right, who testify to the Truth, to God’s works, with their mouths. But another meaning that I have been clinging to lately is this – our gaze is powerful. What we notice, look for, acknowledge can have a powerful effect on the world around us.
This has been helpful to me, too, as I think about my role in my facility. Although sometimes I am called to advocate or hone or actively testify, much faithful work can be done just by quietly, steadfastly noticing the Spirit’s movement, the Christ-like actions, the Godly healing that is happening around me. When Paul says to think on the good things, perhaps he is naming this power of gaze. He is perhaps not suggesting that we ignore the bad or become artificially positive, but that we spend more time and energy looking for and steadfastly gazing upon the things that are right and good. And perhaps when we do that, others will join us in noticing and those things, by our gaze and God’s grace, will increase.
I pray that it may be so!
Laura Stone, MDiv, Chaplain
Signature Healthcare of Bremen
316 Woodies Lane
Bremen, IN 46506