Beauty…or one could call it joy.
Before, the experience of beauty and of joy were one to me. For others, it may be different; I do not know.
Then, the searing, slicing, smashing of that time. My soul is cauterized until I can not feel beauty and forced to walk a tunnel where I can not see beauty. All feeling is a raw and bitter and desperate pain.
A month, two months go by before I sense any salve of peace applied to my open wounds.
Another month, a glimmer. Yet another month, another glimmer. Another soul-prompting that beauty is there. I can believe beauty is there as I believe God is there, and with Him, hope. I can seek beauty and there, perhaps find joy again, back at the Source of all that is good.
But still, the painful grief pours forth daily. Will the flood of tears never end? I seek beauty only to find grief. Peace of soul is fragile and transient. The more I long and grasp for peace, the more elusive it grows and the more exhausted I become. Did we celebrate Christ’s birth? All is blotted from my memory save one vivid picture, my plea to those gathered around the room…Tell me, how did his life impact yours for the better? I need to hear it right now.
And then I grieve for the loss of my father’s mother. And grieve the imminent loss of my dying friend. And grieve for the brokenness emanating from other suffering families. Grieve for the endless, bottomless grief in a world that writhes and cries out in its agony.
Almost six months have passed now. The tears no longer flow every day.
Three more months of soul battle. To the death! Suddenly, here is the end of the tunnel and the clear light of day. The change is striking and shows in my face. The Truth has given me back my bearings. I see and feel and know that up is up and down is down.
Another week, two weeks go by. I can turn around and see the end of the tunnel, back there, receding into the distance. He promptly calls us into the next journey, ready or not. But I walk, we walk together, in the light.
Months of knowing only the next step He asks of us but not where that step will lead. Bracing for more soul-slashing pain. Asking today for the courage I need today, I receive more than I ask for.
Months of living in ever more cramped and crowded conditions, truly a confinement. “How well does Josie tolerate the noise and commotion?” they ask. To which I reply, “Better than I do!” Asking this moment for the patience I need this moment, again I receive far more than I ask for.
And now, this wide and pleasant place. Relief, light, space, rest, privacy, loveliness, quiet, calm.
By His light, I can see beauty again, but how do I respond? Beauty has divorced itself from joy and wedded itself to bewilderment.
I am thankful for this gift of beauty, but my soul is perplexed. Wouldn’t the joy come easily now? I am like an infant who protests, choking and spluttering, at the flow of milk gushing forth too abundantly. It is too much, too fast.
The question “Why?” rises unbidden and unanswered. I want to understand this gift before I can accept it. I still want it all to make sense. But no glib answers, no glib conclusions about cause and effect are left to me.
Unbeknownst to me, chunks of the black tunnel embedded themselves in my soul as I passed through.
I know their names. They are Mistrust and Cynicism. They numb me to joy, whisper that I must guard my heart against joy. How can you take delight in what is too good to be true, they ask?
Their whispers are compelling. I am no longer the whole-hearted, easily-gladdened soul I used to be. I am hesitant to trust. I am not easily moved, certainly not by what moved me in the past. My pulse no longer quickens at any signs of coming happiness. I feel old and grave beyond my years and miss the passionate joy I once knew. I miss the earnest, eager me I see in photos of past years. I feel sorry for that young mother, grieve for her impending loss of innocence. “You have no idea what is about to hit you. Don’t get on that plane!” As if godlike knowledge would endow us with godlike power.
He prays for me daily, this husband of mine, with his stout-hearted confidence in God. He towers over me like a sturdy oak, asking for a breaking up and a melting within me.
Of course this time of peace and beauty can not last; man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. How to be abased and how to abound, that is the question. So in the midst of all the graces God has seen fit to shower on our family, I ask for one more. I go to the only One who can give me what I long for. Today, I ask for a pure heart that honors Him by taking joy in the beauty of who He is and what He gives me today.
I don’t ask a life that’s easy,
The world’s gold or its fine pearls:
I ask for a joyful heart,
An honest heart, a pure heart.
Heart that’s pure and full of virtue,
Is fairer than the pretty lily:
None but a pure heart can sing –
Sing in the day and sing in the night.
If I wished for worldly wealth,
It would swiftly go to seed;
The riches of a virtuous, pure heart,
Will bear eternal profit.
Evening and morning, my wish
Rising to heaven on the wing of song,
For God, for the sake of my Saviour,
Give me a pure heart.
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee:
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.