My mother used to warn me by saying, “If you look for trouble, you’re going to find it.” She was right. It’s amazing what you can find when you’re looking for it. Think of clouds on a breezy summer day. A whole parade of cottony zoo animals and mythological beasts pass by the imaginative eye. Remember searching for four-leaf clovers? Sometimes it’s so easy to find them that it seems as though the three-leaf variety is more rare.
Equally true is that we often overlook what we’re not looking for. We can miss a whole lot in life by being preoccupied or otherwise inattentive. Especially in our high stress world, we end up doing a great deal of what we do pretty much on autopilot. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve driven somewhere and arrived with absolutely no recollection of the journey. I also can’t tell you then number of times I’ve started going somewhere other than I intended simply out of habit.
You’d think that the key to it all is simply paying attention to everything at all times. But if we’re trying to do the right thing, it isn’t really that simple. The problem is that looking and overlooking cut both ways. There are things we miss because we overlook them. There are things we see all too clearly, that perhaps are better overlooked.
“Seek and you will find.” Those words of Jesus are, of course, true. But we have to be concerned about what it is we are looking for. People who look for faults in others--or in themselves--invariably find them. Those who look for reasons to justify their actions, find plenty at hand. On the other hand, people who look for things to celebrate, talents to be used, and foundations on which to build find them too.
So how do we then see what ought to be seen, and overlook what ought to be ignored? Faith gives us guidance. It is mostly a matter of what St. Thomas Aquinas referred to when he wrote, “Praestet fides supplementum sensuum defectui.” That is, “Let faith, that which may fill the gap, stand forward, to supply the defect of the senses.” Faith does not contradict the senses, but fills what they are missing. Faith gives dimension to what is otherwise flat, and color to what appears to be merely black and white. To love, we must at least glimpse what is good and worthy of love. To love, we must be able to overlook what is lacking in others and in ourselves.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and you will find me, when you search for me with all your heart.” Ultimately, what comes with the beatific vision is vision itself. For only in God can we see His creation the way He does. To see things the way God sees them, we have to begin by acknowledging that our senses are not enough. To see all we ought to see in the way we ought to see it comes not from an intense looking at things, but from an intent looking for God. One thing is certain, what we seek we will find. What we look for, we will see.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an author, speaker, musician and serves as Faith Formation Coordinator at St. Maria Goretti Parish in Lynnfield.