When I was an undergraduate in psychology, all the Psych 101 students had the opportunity to participate in an experiment for extra credit. Being a budding social scientist, I was curious and frankly needed some extra credit, so I signed up for an experiment.
This is what I was asked to do. I sat down at a table and an experimenter took an ordinary deck of playing cards and flashed six of them at me. She flashed them quickly asking me to identify those six cards as fast as I could—“Nine of Diamonds, Two of hearts, Jack of Clubs—shoot! What was that one?” Then she repeated the exercise flashing the cards a little slower so I could identify the ones I missed the first time. Being a somewhat slow learner, she flashed the cards a third time—only this time she flashed the cards so slowly that I felt like a complete idiot, because there was one card I couldn’t identify.
You see, I did not have the words to name it. I thought I knew it but was not sure. I could see the problem when all the cards were laid on the table in front of me. The unidentifiable card was a six of spades—but it was read instead of black. I couldn’t see the red spade, because spades are supposed to be black.
Expectation is powerful. Often our expectation prevents us from seeing what is right in front of us. In life those things that are unexpected—particularly those things having to do with the Holy are like that red six of spades—appearing in plain site but hidden from our perception. If we are not careful the grace and love around us can become a card that is lost in the shuffle. It is especially challenging to remain open to the sacredness of our surroundings when we are in a time of uncertainty such as we are living through with the present pandemic.
At times it is challenging to recognize God in those situations in which there is such ambiguity and doubt. How often might we expect the worst because our previous experience or the media or others around us tell us we should? We are often unable to recognize what is Holy in our environment because our experience sets us up for expecting God to be found in beauty, the sacred in churches and hope in the positive experiences of life. Certainly, we don’t expect to find such thing in the midst of terrifying events, uncertain situations and week after week of social distancing.
Yet, God is with us, available to you and me. Grace surrounds all of us, is within us and in each moment of our lives. Let us remain open to the possibilities, to name the sacred when we see it. Let us celebrate the moments that are ripe with joy and hope. Let us grab hold of the grace when it provides peace and forgiveness in times of trial. Because the Holy goes far beyond our expectation, and as we all know, sometimes we find God’s grace when and where we least expect it.