I just finished an online spiritual formation course. The final assignment was a creative project based on some concepts we studied over the last 4 weeks. Usually, ideas line up in my brain and eagerly pepper me with scenarios for possible projects. But this week, much to my dismay, everything was silent.
On Saturday, I tried to put some ideas down on paper, but after three attempts to come up with something creative (all of them whined about the fact that I was uninspired), I stopped. What do you do when you lack inspiration? Everything seems deflated and limp, void of life. Words fall flat - monotone and without meaning. Music becomes mechanical. I abandoned another idea mid-sentence and scribbled two words beneath the mess: phone book.
My lack of inspiration was reminding me of a saying. When something does not hold our interest, we say that it is about as exciting as reading the phone book. On the other hand, it is also said of someone who has great charisma that they can read the phone book and hold people's attention. And then I realised that a phone book, a book full of the names of real live people, is actually very exciting. Each name represents a living, breathing, human being on this planet. If I met them, I would likely find them engaging, interesting, and want to hear their story. No matter what their situation in life, they would also be carrying the image of God: that attractive, energising element of his glorious spirit. The whole earth is filled with God's glory, and that includes Jim, Lisa, Roger, and Nancy.
I woke up the next day and the idea was still there. So was some excitement about it, and the seeds of some practical ideas as to how to put it together. I also realised that being inspired is not just a feeling. Nor is it the ability to fill a bucket full of creative ideas time after time. It is having the breath of God in me, the life of God pulsing deep inside my soul. And that is as constant as he is, not as fickle as my emotions or thoughts.
Here, then, is my attempt to read the phone book. All photos are taken from my personal collection. I trust that my friends and the random strangers pictured here will not mind lending their faces for a brief second to show the glory of God. Big thanks to Dean who did his magic on the audio engineering side of things.
Big white phone books are no longer printed, so I got creative and accessed a few other lists, most of them online. The names used include all the children our church sponsors in South Africa, some employees at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, DC, a few of my neighbours in Montreal whose last names start with "D," and pretty much the entire rundown of services and businesses in a small town in Botswana (Maun) found under the letter "R."
The whole earth is indeed so much more glorious than I am able to see. Open my eyes, God. Let me see your glory today. In all things great and small.