Signals of Transendence

About the time I start losing my internal debate as to whether or not there’s rhyme or reason to my current demands and immediate struggles, I’m rescued by a visit from grandchildren. Such was the case last night; two-year-old Hannah B spent the evening with us while big sister went to the county fair. My immediate assignment upon arriving home from a road trip was to distract Hannah, thereby allowing my wife to complete an embroidery project with a friend. Hannah and I took to the great outdoors hand-in-hand, and I watched with fascination as she reached down to examine every fallen leaf, place it in my hands, wait for me to ‘ooh and aah,’ then retrieve and gently return it to its spot on the grass. Hannah knows how to enjoy the moment, undisturbed by the past and unencumbered by anything future. In short order, my precious companion reminded me of the most weighty theology I’ve ever learned: “All moments are key moments, and life itself is grace” (Buechner).

Boston University sociologist Peter Berger, author of “A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural,” lists and describes what he terms “signals of transcendence”: our passion for order (pointing to a Designer); our desire for play (showing our passion for eternal joy); our commitment to hope (refusing to believe that death has the final word); our conviction that true evil must be condemned; and our laughter at our limitations (showing that we believe they will be overcome). I appreciate Berger’s contribution, but I believe Hannah B knows and demonstrates it best: The clearest signal of transcendence is that this moment, in and of itself, matters enormously. Grace is always present tense, and eternity begins right now.

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalms 90:12-14, KJV)

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