When I was a young girl, my dad had a small garden next to our driveway.
He didn’t spend a lot of time or energy there because he was busy tending his vegetables in another part of the yard. He did, however, put in some large pieces of driftwood that he seemed to enjoy.
One summer evening, one of our neighbors came over holding a small sprig of ivy.
He told my dad that it was part of a cutting from a friend of a friend who had taken it from Mount Vernon, the estate owned by George and Martha Washington.
It was his treasure, and he was sharing it.
I remember my dad graciously accepting the gift and planting it in the small garden near our car. Because it was ivy, it quickly took over and we then had the bragging rights of growing ivy — almost directly — from the gardens of our first president.
I was young then, and I didn’t really value the gift or its history. And because our yard was in Indiana, nearly 600 miles away from Virginia, the distance seemed too vast to have value.
Proximity is important, isn’t it?
One of my favorite Gospels is the story of the woman who touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. I heard it all my life, but it became mine one Sunday morning many years ago.
I was attending a retreat, and the retreat master introduced me to the prayer technique of Ignatian Gospel contemplation. In it, the listener puts herself right in the middle of a scene in the Gospel. I was encouraged to use my senses as I listened to the words.
On that morning, I became the woman pushing through the crowd. I was not intent on catching Jesus’ eye or shaking His hand. My only goal was to lower myself in the middle of the throng of people and try to touch the hem of His garment.
I became the woman with the horrible illness who was intent on being healed. I became the woman who believed that only Jesus could cure me.
I wanted the proximity, the nearness to Him, because I wanted to be healed.
Isn’t that the way we should lead our lives? Always striving to be in His presence. Always seeking Him out, oblivious to others around us. Oblivious to everything but Him.
Some days, it’s just too hard. Some days, He only gets a sliver of attention from us, which is sad.
The saints understood. They knew that seeking closeness to Jesus needed to be their primary focus. That’s why we honor them.
Matthew 6 reminds us not to worry, not to be anxious. Why? Because God the Father knows the desires of our hearts.
We are to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and God will take care of the rest.
Easy words to read. Hard words to live.
But they are really all about proximity.
Our proximity to Jesus.