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Story

By Eric A. Clayton

My eldest daughter started lacrosse last week — at least, as much lacrosse as can be realistically expected for preschoolers. I’m very excited.

Much to the genuine shock and amusement of literally everyone I tell, lacrosse was the sport I played for the majority of my formative years. Long-pole defenseman. I didn’t do much scoring, but I could definitely knock you down.

And my daughter knows it. (Not the knock-you-down part; the Dad-played-lacrosse-growing-up part.)

“What if I become a famous lacrosse player?” she asked me after her one and only day of practice. “Will you be on the sidelines?”

“Of course!” I replied. “Cheering you on.”

“Then I really want to be a famous lacrosse player,” she said. She wrung her hands together the way she does when she’s thinking hard about something, her eyes looking off into the distance.

I thought about that exchange all weekend, how excited she was at the prospect of me cheering from the sidelines. Seems like a low bar, right? Easily accomplished. I’m there at most of her gymnastics and swim practices, after all. Cheering is basically all a person can do at such events.

That’s what she must have been thinking about.

But then I sat at her swim lesson this past weekend. I was there, attentive, encouraging her when she felt nervous and throwing a thumbs up her way when she succeeded. Smiles, eye contact, the whole thing.

I’m crushing this “cheering-on-the-sidelines” business, I thought.

But then her little sister needed my attention – can’t have her tumbling in the pool – and another parent wanted to chat and I needed to check a few things on my phone and…

Even the most attentive cheerleader looks away now and again. Misses a moment. Is caught daydreaming.

And I wondered then if my daughter was naming something that deserved more thought. For as attentive as I might be – and I genuinely think I am – there are always glances I miss, smiles that go astray of their intended target.

We all feel that now and again, even with those we consider most beloved. We can only be so intimately involved in another’s life; we can only expect so much from others in ours.

And yet, we desire it. We look for that infinite gaze settling upon our most mundane and everyday moments. And when we don’t find it, when we don’t feel it, we are tempted to believe that so much of our lives pass by unseen, unnoticed, unimportant.

I hope this Lenten journey has done something to dispel that lie. We give up or take up trivial, small, seemingly insignificant things – giving up chocolate or beer or promising to put a few extra coins in the poor box – because God is so intimately present and concerned with the nitty-gritty details of who we are. It’s there in the quiet ordinary where we are transformed, where resurrection takes place.

And Holy Week drives home the point.

Think of the utterly mundane specificity of the Passion story: A donkey is on a particular street corner; the upper room is just so; Jesus shares a simple meal and goes to pray; random strangers meet him on his way to die. Each of those details are now held up for our sacred wonder and awe, a testament to God-at-work in the human story.

God is the Alpha and Omega of our desire, the Gaze we seek, the One we yearn for in our deepest selves. And God never looks away. Rather, God is so busy delighting in all that we are that even a millisecond is too long for God to be parted from us.

So, as we near the end of our Lenten journey, no matter how your own Lenten promises progressed, know that God is there, gazing upon you, delighting in you.

Cheering you on.

This reflection is part of the award-winning weekly email series, “Now Discern This.” If you’d like to get reflections like this one directly in your inbox every Wednesday, sign up here.

a person smiling for the cameraEric A. Clayton is the award-winning author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith (Loyola Press) and the deputy director of communications at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. His essays on spirituality, parenting and pop culture have appeared in America MagazineNational Catholic ReporterU.S. Catholic, Busted Halo and more, and he is a regular contributor to Give Us This Day, IgnatianSpirituality.com and Dork Side of the Force, where he blogs about Star Wars. His fiction has been published by Black Hare Press, the World of Myth Magazine and more. He lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife, two young daughters and their cat, Sebastian.