“The problem is that no one’s intentional anymore!” She exclaimed, her eyes sweeping the dining room as her statement floated in the air for a moment, then settled into the silence that briefly enveloped the almost-deserted table.
Soon, the conversation picked up again and we were once more passing ideas and thoughts back and forth across the table; sharing understanding, and admitting our lack thereof. Soon, the conversation came to a close, and we individually gathered our stuff and made our way out of the dining room, but her words about intentionality stuck with me. I am intrigued by the idea of living intentionally in all areas of my life, and I am inspired by the people who I see around me who are living intentionally. But, more than anything, I am convicted.
It’s not uncommon for me to refer to myself as a space cadet. And sometimes, it’s true. Sometimes, I’m noncommittal, and I don’t pay attention to things that others might like me to pay attention to. Sometimes, I miss the important things, and sometimes I look at something and only see the little things and completely miss big things. Sometimes I get it and sometimes I don’t.
Yes, I try my best to be intentional about how I interact with you, as we stand face to face in the hallway. But I often don’t do a phenomenal job of seeking out friendships, of looking at relationships in light of the big picture, not as a series of unrelated interactions that string together to create a friendship.
I’ve spent significant portions of my life shying away from intentionality because of the work of it all. To be intentional about political beliefs, one must take time to research, understand, and form opinions. To be intentional about faith, one must study the Word of God, have a grasp of theology, and be firmly grounded in one’s personal convictions. To be intentional about relationships, one must take the time to step back and surmise where one’s relationships are, where they should be going, and what steps it will take to get them there.
Intentionality is a commitment, and it’s hard work, and as I thought more about it, I began to worry about one thing: the beauty. I worried that intentionality in my life, my actions, my words would so involve my heart and my mind that I would start to miss the beauty; something I try so hard to see, to open my mind and heart to. I worried that my awareness of intentionality would replace my awareness of beauty.
I was sitting on the floor, legs crossed under me, leaning over my C-DOC textbook. She sat at the desk to my right, leaning on one elbow, reading intently. Music played softly in the background, and every so often one of us would straighten up, glance at the other, and utter a comment, remark, question. Homework would be briefly set aside as we tossed words back and forth, smiling at the funny, nodding at the agreeable. Then, as fast as it had picked up, the conversation would settle again, and we would once again slip into the worlds of Church and its Doctrines and Apologetics.
The music suddenly stopped, and she looked up from her book to remedy the situation. The computer sitting resolutely on her desk is a loaner from a thoughtful and generous friend, and as she clicked from page to page, hurrying to restore the music to our quiet studying, she commented on her old computer. I remained hunched over my textbook as she spoke her next sentence, but her last word grabbed my attention. She had paused every so slightly mid sentence, in order to select the right word, and as soon as the words left her lips, I sat up.
I glanced in her direction. The music playing again, and the slow-paced conversation on hold for a moment, she had returned to her book, arms resting on the desk, book resting in her hands. I sat where I was on the floor, and considered how her words had stopped me in my tracks. Nothing profound, nothing even very important, but the way she put it together into a sentence, and the word she used to complete her thought stopped me and held me there for a moment or two.
I stared at the line where the wall meets the ceiling and I thought about it. I thought about our tones, inflections, the word choices we make and how they affect our entire communication, and then I realized; this is beauty.
Words, thoughts, syntax, grammar, spelling. These things make beauty. Words can be beauty when they express exotic and wonderful ideas, or painful truths, or even simple facts about a computer.
And I realized that intentionality does not eliminate beauty. Even as I begin to be more intentional about the way I think, the way I speak, the way I be, I can still see the beautiful. Intentionality is not in place of beauty, but rather, it becomes another way of seeing the beauty in words, in moments, in a snapshot of a memory, and even in intentionality itself.