"The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Naj' Hammadi brings us the Gospel of Thomas, which is not a narrative of Jesus' life like the other gospels, but a collection of sayings attributed to him. One of them come to mind often when I take my walk on the beach in the morning, reminding me not to miss anything not just on the beach but in the day and the days to come. His followers ask Jesus, 'When will the kingdom come?' and he answers:
" 'It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said 'Look, here it is,' or 'Look, there it is.' Rather, the father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people do not see it.'
"I stop and take a deep breath, and look, at the ocean's blue expanse, the pillowing clouds, and see as well the blessing of the life I have, the unexpected path that brings me here, and I say a prayer of thanks. When I look with full awareness, I do see the kingdom, but most of the time, like most of us, I'm too busy planning the future and reimagining the past (what I should have done and said). Most of the time I'm like the people I see on the beach with their heads down and ears plugged while they sweep the sand with metal detectors in search of buried coins and lost jewelry, while the real treasure lies all around them.
"Glimpses of the kingdom shine though the smog of my own ego, through the noise of TV and CD and radio, the numbing assault on the senses that we sometimes relieve through prayer, meditation, and genuine attention to others, or simply a conscious awakening, awareness of the life we're given. We can find it in Scripture, the sacred texts of any faith, as well as in the living Scripture of the world, the bark of an oak tree, a stranger's smile.
"We always forget the kingdom is here and lapse again back to somnambulism, but sometimes by grace we're jolted awake by a light so powerful it pierces our fog. It happens to me in a workshop I lead while I'm writing this book. Wendy M. Wright, a professor of theology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, reads aloud what she's written in a fifteen-minute exercise in spiritual autobiography, and it sounds like I'm hearing the essence of my own story. I learn again all of us who seek the spirit have the same story; it's the only story, retold through centuries in different tongues as I hear it now come as sure as Scripture from Wendy Wright:
" 'How dark the seeing. How fragmentary. Mostly it consists of learning to free fall. Learning to trust the constant somersaulting. Learning to live with spiritual vertigo. Learning to love the darkness. Learning to trust the brief glimpses. Learning that blindness is its own seeing. Learning that the falling is in itself beautiful. That at the bottom of the well of my heart, I free fall into You.' "