Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


Be a beautiful one

I woke up this morning in an utterly unimaginative, and therefore, rather unholy mood. It was probably a serendipitous thing that I had an early morning errand far, far out on the plains. I was fit company for no one but God. I zipped down the highway and knew, full well, that my problem was hope. An utter lack of it. Today, I woke up and could not find it in my heart to affirm the possibility of dreams. I've been lonely lately. I've been wrangling with unanswered desires that won't go away, and a life that will not, for all my effort, flourish. Lying in bed in grey light, I confronted the rock bottom, pebbles at the bottom of the ocean truth that life is hard. That prayers languish unanswered. I didn't like it. Today I found it hard to swallow the fact that my faith promised me good beyond this world but offers no guarantee on circumstances here. I want some ideals to come true. Here. Now.

A couple of weeks ago, to cope, I got no-nonsense. Loneliness makes me a pragmatist. I looked out from my tunnel of discouragement and decided that godliness and survival meant being businesslike. Life is a journey and my dreams, I thought, hindered me. The want for my cottage, that refuge of a home that will be a beauty and my gift to the world, tore too much at my heart. The hope for people, for a place, for oh so many loves, all of it felt tangled at my feet as I strove to walk forward. The want for artistry, to write, to craft, was an ache I could not sustain if I was going to be productive and strong. I had cradled those dreams like a babe in my arms, lugged them along in pain, my whole heart given to protect the fragile hope of their coming true. But a month ago, I tried to push them away, settle down, and force my spirit into the confines of practicality. I did my best to get involved in practical, helpful ministry in the community. I joined several groups, volunteered, worked from dawn to dusk on the more prosaic writing and detaily projects on my plate. I carved a sunny, determined smile on my face.

Until I woke this morning in despair. I woke up and the illusion was over, the energy gone. I had lived on a high of activity, pouring my heart and muscles into the distraction of work, and now the adrenaline was gone and I was left with an emptiness worse even than before. I sputtered frustration at God all the way down to my destination. To leave my dreams, I found, was to abandon hope. To carry them, unanswered, was to be in constant torment. The refrain of my year has been my desire to be completely God's, here in my time, in my bit of a life. I looked out my window at the blooming rose of a dawn sky and told him I didn't know how. And yet, despite it all, shattered as I felt, I wanted to be all his. I had some strong, haunting Irish music on, and as it keened away, do you know what I heard?

Be my beautiful one. Not my useful one or practical one, but my beautiful one.

And probably, that whispered affirmation means little to anyone else, but to me, it was freedom. It was a voice that prodded me a few steps back to where my dreams lay in the grass at the side of the road. I picked them up and knew that their beauty had come to me from the heart of God, that I could no more abandon them than I could abandon my soul. God has not asked me to be a machine of righteousness, a practical producer of good deeds, an automaton of virtue acting as if my heart were made of steel. He made me to be a creator, a lover, a maker, a healer.

The pain I bear in wanting these things is part of making them real in a fallen world. The missing piece, I think, was my understanding that to survive, I needed to become a creator. I needed, not merely to carry those dreams, and wait for them, foot tapping with outraged impatience. I needed to fight and work for them, begin the living now, in the confines of my tiny life. I could either ignore the emptiness in my heart, shout down its silence with activity, or I listen, and ache, and  fill it. I could take the splinters of dreams dropped again and again and make something new. Every single time. Despair or creation.

"Be my beautiful one."

Yes, the truth is that this is the broken place, and yes, our faith is founded on hope beyond the edges of the world. Yet our souls, here and now, are actually new creations in Christ. We have, in our spirits, the first seed of the perfect world. The Holy Spirit is present, in my life, body, thoughts, and even dreams. The dreams I bear are not mine alone. By choosing to be a maker, to incarnate what I hope and trust to be true in the stories I tell, the friendships I pursue, the home I craft, I live out, speak out, true faith. The salvation hope I have in God gets dressed in flesh and bone by the beauty I choose to make.

As I drove back home, face full of pearled sunlight, I felt my imagination muscling up for the work of hope. Let the fight for creation begin again.