A Powerful Beauty

Sunday, May 31, 2009

There are some wounds, some hurts whose only healing salve in all of creation is simple, unadulterated beauty. It's true. If you've ever had one of these wounds, you know what I'm talking about. We all know this on some level. Think about it. Why do we take flowers, of all things, to the grieving or the sick? "Hey, I heard you lost the dearest person in the whole world to you, here are some pansies." It should be ridiculous, but it's not, because there is something about that perfect representation of life and color and creative design that penetrates and soothes the burning places where nothing else can reach.

Kev's sermon this morning got me thinking about it. We're in the Psalms...a place my soul
rejoices to tarry anyway. I'm grateful for David's humanness. He expresses so many of my own pains and cries to God. I liked Kevin's point...that when God answers our human sorrows and cries, it is not usually with an explanation or a changing of our circumstances. More often, God answers us the way he answered David, with -- a mountain, a sunset, a rolling tide. In the huge broadness of those things, we find peace and rest for our souls. And that's His answer. I Am this God. Kevin compared it to the answers and comfort we offer to each other:
"Oh you're hurting?? Here's some Advil and orange juice and I'll sit with you and watch an episode of the Office." That made me laugh...how often that has been Steve's exact remedy for my hurting heart. It's a good one for sure, coming from a human friend. But it really is funny in comparison to what God offers me from His hand:
"Oh you're hurting?? Here, I've made this mountain for you and Oh! wait...watch this, I'll paint a sunset for you!" We had some discussion about it (the thing I really, really love about my church is that we get to talk too), and everyone agreed about the peace and comfort they have found by a river or mountain or ocean waves. Kev's point is well taken. God is hearing us, he is answering. We must understand that the mountain sunset is His answer. The sun sparkling off the rolling waves in a thousand little lightning bolts is His answer to our aching cries.

I didn't speak up this morning about the times when God has spoken to the needs of my soul. The mountains and oceans speak libraries to me like they do to everyone. But when I searched my memory for examples of Him answering me when I really needed to know He was there and that He cared, the ones that came to mind were much more personal than mountains or oceans...they were a little bit silly. There is one thing though, that all the examples have in common. They are all gifts of matchless beauty.

I remember when we first moved to our new house a few years ago. It was a painful time when I was unsure of everything, unsure if God even loved me. We'd left behind a lot of experiences both precious and incredibly painful. I didn't know if I'd done the right thing in moving away, if I was in the right place now or if I'd ever feel happy again. I loved my new house, but I didn't know how life here could ever compare to the precious things I'd had to leave behind. I cried a lot, but that first year they hadn't built the house behind us yet, and the sunrises from my new second story window were unreal. I knew God painted them just for me that year, because I'm pretty sure He knows I'm the only one in the neighborhood who insists on having her curtains wide open to the morning sun...it came from growing up in the country without curtains for most of my life. I need to sleep with the sky looking in. He sent constant gifts that year, knowing even better than I did how my heart wounds needed beauty. The first time it snowed I looked out that window at all the rooftops and felt like I was in London on a beautiful snowy evening. Then there were those huge icicles glowing in the orange of one of those sunrises.

I'll never forget the moment I realized all the gifts were from Him. The curtain was closed that spring morning (I live with a city boy who has a hard time leaving my curtains open :-) ). I was nudged awake by a strange puffing noise that would blow for a few seconds and then stop, start again for a few more seconds and stop. My heart leapt, because I'd heard that sound before... I jumped out of bed, yanked open that darn curtain and there they were. Balloons. Giant rainbows and strawberries and tapestries in every joyful color floating not off in the distance, but right by my bedroom window. Right by it!!! Close enough to greet the bright-eyed pilots and passengers with a cheerful call and maybe even a cup of coffee if I'd had a thermos to toss over! A glance to my right revealed 8, maybe 9 more balloons in various stages of inflation and launch. The Balloons over Bend had changed their take-off that year, moving to Jewell School at the end of my street in hopes of better wind conditions. Why this particular thing mattered to me was so intensely personal, no one but the Creator to whom I so regularly poured out my heart could possibly have known what that sound and those colors would mean to me that morning. Here's the really beautiful thing. The event wasn't actually supposed to happen until the following morning, but reports of bad weather had inspired the pilots to pull out the balloons a day early for a test run...just in case they didn't get to do the real one on Saturday. I heard later that they'd had to change their landing location that morning, because the wind was supposed to have been blowing the other way...so then...that show was for me. No one but the pilots and crews knew they'd be there, so there were no crowds. The wind that could have been blowing them 359 other directions on the compass blew them right by my window. It was like getting a really expensive and exquisite bouquet of flowers, "just because I love you", Creator of the Universe style.

Then there was that one Christmas. I had lost my closest friend in the world (second only to my dear husby), and facing the fun and cheer of my Savior's Season without that friend was proving particularly hard that year. I couldn't seem to muster any joy or spirit for my kids or my good-hearted friends. The Christmas tree had been purchased instead of hunted, the gifts remained unwrapped, the cookies un-baked. Then one day driving home, this fiddle song came on the radio. Now again, my Jesus is really the only one who could possibly know how deeply the right violin music touches me, and this one crashed into my soul like morning sun into a dungeon. By the time it was over I was weeping and giggling and wiping tears and snot like an idiot. I rushed home to the phone and called the radio station. "WHAT were you just playing!!!?" The DJ told me it was a young man named David Klinkenberg and I promptly put the CD on my Christmas wish list. Then the really beautiful part... My mom called me one day about a week and a half later to tell me she had been looking at my Christmas list. "Hey, you know, this CD that you have on here? You know, he's gonna be playing at our church on Christmas Eve, right? You could just get the CD there." She had been so non-chalant about it, and I couldn't wrap my brain around the possibility of actually getting to hear that song played live. But I did. It turned out this guy's sister lives in Redmond and since he would be at her place for the holidays, he'd agreed to do a special concert at Westside. And I was there in the second row, weeping and laughing and thanking like I've rarely done. I knew unquestionably that it had been arranged "Owner of the Universe" style, just for me...again. God's very personal gift of beauty to my grieving heart that year was a song called "Jesu Joy". Jesus joy.

I could tell a dozen more stories of healing beauty that my Savior has sent me, but in every one I'd have to explain to you that only He could possibly have understood what that particular thing meant in that moment. A particular rose that was delivered by my husband, a persistent friend that kept leaving small gifts at my door, a rainstorm that wouldn't let up for days until I was finished crying, and a tree that refused to relinquish it's blaze of fall color until I was ready to face the next season. A little girl across the street named Gracy who dances and sings with barefeet in the wintertime, an unexpected book, a gratuitous photograph.

Beauty is what our Creator uses to draw us and woo us. And it is His answer to the cry, "Daddy, my heart hurts!" David knew that. God answered his cries with the springs of En Gedi...and I'm sure a hundred other small beauties that only David and God understood. I watch carefully now when I'm surprised by a particular beauty. Sometimes I know it's meant for me, but sometimes I know it's not, and then I wonder about the story and the heart that prompted my Jesus to do this thing. Who is hurting that they need this? Will they see it's meant just for their heart? Will they accept a soothing salve instead of an answer for now? Will their heart ever heal up for real? Will mine?
I don't really know. But I know I try harder now to give beauty and to be beautiful ,because I've seen how much my Father uses beautiful things...and I think maybe if I have it to offer, perhaps one day He can use me too.


Randy said...

Good stuff, Jennie. John Eldredge quoted someone who said something similar, that only two things can pierce the soul. Beauty was one, can't remember the other (sorrow?).

There are certainly times when certain music and sunsets do that to me, though not usually in times of sorrow. But it's good to be reminded of its value, because even though I enjoy it, I have a hard time spending money on it. You know, like $1,000 for a painting. I just can't justify it! I'd rather spend that on a big screen TV, since you can display no end of paintings on them.

I suppose it's because I tend to value things more for their utilitarian value, rather than just beauty for beauty's sake. Even though I love it when I step in a house that's beautifully decorated, I couldn't get myself to spend what it cost to do it.