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Attending to Wonder: The Photography of Robert Adams

Singing in the Rain

Part of the human task is to discern how our lives are a part of a larger story, to trace the outlines of the plot, to envision a meta- and mega-narrative.

Yes, but it is raining, and I need a nap.  That's just too deep and too abstract to think about right now.

Outside my window, a lone bird, perhaps a chickadee, chirps.  He or she is not thinking of meta-narratives but just living the story, though the Psalmist does say that "The eyes of all look to you,/and you give them their food in due season./ You open your hand;/you satisfy the desire of every living thing" (Ps. 145:15-16).  Even a lone bird has desires, has expectations, is dependent on One.  Even a bird (I can't help myself) is a part of something bigger than the next worm.

I need a nap because I was awake at all hours last night listening to rain and thunder, and then more rain and thunder.  It was a night of naps punctuated by rumblings, and with the window open I could hear it all, hear the drama build, the plot thicken, until that one final moment when in one huge thunderous boom it passed.  One more page in an unfolding story, maybe no more than one more word in a very lengthy story, inexplicable in its interlocking subplots, full of tragedy, comedy, and fairy tale, and yet it moves on.

I don't take it for granted that I can think this way, that I can conceive a universal in all the disparate particulars of life: cars that need repair, bills to pay, sickness, washing dishes, getting up and lying down, meeting someone and not meeting many others.  And on that last point I like to tell the story of the time I was dining an a cafe in Tucson, Arizona and, on excusing myself from the table, crossed paths with a server who called out my name, first and last.  He was in my fourth grade class, not even a good friend, and I had not seen him in 34 years.  Amazing.  He said "You look the same."  He lied.  But the point is that I wonder what that plot detail was about, of what story that was a part.  Maybe it happened only so I could tell you about it, to marvel at the (I believe) divine providences that occur every day.

That's the kind of thing that rises to the surface when you lie awake at night, when the clock reads 3:39 and you listen to its hum, when you are hyper-attuned to the settling of the house, like some ancient creature sinking back down on its haunches long after its occupants have retired.  At least long after most have retired.

I don't know what much of it means, but I can trace a central theme in this huge story, the theme of grace, of a Writer who regards with kindness every character He creates, who cares even about one lone chickadee singing in the rain.  The Psalmist said it: "The Lord is faithful in all his words, kind in all his works" (Ps. 145:13).  To love what you make is one thing, but to be kind. . . that's something else.  What author is as tender with all his creations as this One?  What author, much to the grief it causes him, allows his creatures to participate in writing their stories, heaping injury on themselves and others at times?  What author writes himself into the story, becomes like his creations, honors them and dies to Himself for them?  If I don't like the way a story is turning out, I put it down, even throw it away.  He didn't.  He honors his promise that he would be faithful to his people, and though many of his creations are written out of the story there are those who stay to the end, who are kept to the end.

It sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? And yet if the Author of Life wants to write a story that asks us to believe that there is Someone outside the Story who is superintending it, certainly he can.  So many people live disconnected, disjointed lives of seeming randomness, passing from scene to scene with no sense that there is any larger meaning.  No author, no meaning.  No plot, no purpose.  And so it is a gift to find yourself in the biblical narrative.

I am Adam, created and fallen.  I am Israel, distracted and scattered, gathered and redeemed. I am Paul, a blind man given sight.  I am the paralytic of heart, given the legs of faith.  I am John of Patmos, seeing things I don't fully understand.

I am a lone chickadee, singing in the rain.  Expecting.  Hoping.  Waiting.  Singing.