A lot of this post is going to be excerpts. I want you to read her words. To soak in them. Because they have been life to my soul. I've written before of my views about beauty. And somewhere along the way, I forgot. This woman, the one who lives on a farm states away, has reminded me of the soul-stirring, love-evoking, search for beautiful things that really leads me to seeing God clearer. More wholly. She has reminded me that the easy fix doesn't exist and so we have to ask the question of how to see grace clearly, accurately, as more than ease or not experiencing the worst of the worst.
And I look down at his ugly-beautiful [referring to her sons maimed hand]. And I see what I am. I'm amputated. I have hacked my life up into grace moments and curse moments. The chopping that has cut myself off from the embracing love of a God who "does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow" (Lamentations 3:33), but labors to birth grief into greater grace.
God is good and I am always loved.
Because eucharisteo is how Jesus, at the Last Supper, showed us to transfigure all things--take the pain that is given, give thanks for it, and transform it into a joy that fulfills all emptiness. The hard discipline to learn into the ugly and whisper thanks to transfigure it into beauty. The hard discipline to give thanks for all things at all times because He is all good.
All is grace because all can transfigure.
All is grace because all. can. transfigure. He is ALL. GOOD.
I soak that up like a good tan in the summer. Though I'm not in a season where I am disparaging in depravity, I know those who are. I talk to my sister and hear of the hell some of her students are living in. I walk with a friend who is dealing with the pull between her old world and her new. I ache for them, and then I have to remember the grace. Not that if this got worse it wouldn't be grace, but that the ugly is grace too, because it has to be. It has to be able to be transfigured because that's what God promises. To look at the people who absolutely drive me insane and see that as their ugly-beautiful and remember that I am that too. This concept of grace puts us all on the same level, none better, none worse. And it leads us to a place of being compelled to act for others in love. To love justice and mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). To be a place of rest for hurting people because we understand the need and that grace doesn't leave us in a self-protecting place.
I am beset by chronic soul amnesia. I empty of truth and need the refilling. I need to come again every day--bend, clutch, and remember--for who can gather the manna but once, hoarding, and store away sustenance in the mind for all of the living?
And is that not me? I am the one hoarding. Soaking in Truth a few times a week and calling that full. I forget my need, lose sight of my starvation, and allow life to be swallowed up by mortality (2 Corinthians 5:4). She refers in her book constantly to Manna. The food only available each day. She reminds me that the sweet bread is only available daily. Enough for a time. And my soul forgets. It forgets its hunger for life. I miss sight of fullness, forsaking it for cheap substitutes.
Isn't beauty what we yearn to burn with before we die? What else so ignites, hot flame? Beauty is all that is glory and God is Beauty embodied, glory manifested. This what I crave: I hunger for Beauty. Is that why I must keep up the hunt? When I cease the beauty hunt, is that why I begin to starve, waste away?
I had told it once to a questioning son that theology is but that born of theos and logy--God and study-- and theology is to study God. I had always thought of the hefty concordances on the high shelf in the study, but isn't this, too, the deep study of the Spirit God? The revelation of God over the farm? [referring to the search for beauty]
I pay tribute to God by paying attention. Beauty requires no justification, no explanation; it simply is and transcends.
And her words resonate with my soul. Bring tears to my eyes, and the question of how to refute soul amnesia. She's right. She calls me out. How do I constantly miss the beauty in things--the God in things. It's because my eyes aren't looking. They are darting to and fro for cheap entertainment. For ease. How much harder it is to live a life where I am constantly looking for God. It involves mindfulness that I don't possess, thus it involves constant looking up to Him for the mindfulness. I have held onto the thought that studying God in beauty is just as much the pursuit of theology as it is in books for a year now. My heart jumps to see someone speaking of her own journey to that truth. The truth that the fields I mindlessly drive by, the endless blue above me as I look down, the sunrise I daily ignore on my way to class, the cup of coffee I drink, the vastness of the world around me, it all contains some semblance of beauty. I shallowly live amidst it without ever really looking.
I feel overwhelmed with that reminder today. With the reminder that as I look for God in beauty, as I look for God in the ugly, as I look for God in my starvation, fullness, desire, apathy, and love, I am pursuing life rather than mortality. I am living the full life. I am creating a life that allows Him to work and I am fostering space for bigger things than me.
Part of my soul amnesia diagnosis is remembering that God is in everything. That pursuing God doesn't just look like what I learned it should in that warehouse room in Sunday School. It encompasses reality. All reality. And it leads me to a place where I don't shy away from "types" of people. In fact, it erases that word from my vocabulary. It allows me to see us all as ugly-beautiful. It teaches me to care deeply and love fervently. It teaches to me to live a life of rest and allow God to lead me where I'm supposed to be. It reminds me that I don't have to try.
And how my soul has needed to know that. How it always needs to know that. This is grace because it can transfigure. It can go from being ugly to being beautiful. God treats my soul amnesia with a restful time in a coffee shop with thirst quenching reminders from a mother of six living on a farm.