I’m not someone apt to look for beauty when life is ugly. When life is ugly, when I’m losing people to death and fighting with people I love and finding it hard to sit in church listening to sermons about Revelation and the end times, I only see the brokenness of the world and the people in it. I tend to see only the problems without solutions, the cancers without treatments, and the cruelty of how we’re treating each other in these messes. Left to my own devices, I get dark and ugly.
And then I reminded that I’m not left to my own devices. Then friends on Twitter who I’ve not met in real life send tweets of encouragement. Then my youth girls and college friends send text messages that are really more like prayers, reminders that they’re calling out to Him when I can’t find the words. Then Amy and Mike call and insist that I stay the night in their extra bedroom so that I can get a good night’s sleep, and they make me breakfast and coffee in the morning so I can have a home cooked meal. Then Danielle and Joe invite me over, and Danielle takes me out to lunch while Joe stays home and fixes the tire on my car that keeps going flat. Then Julie emails me pictures of my little buddy Joey starting to crawl and she calls and leaves voicemails just to tell me she loves me and that it’s okay that I don’t have energy to answer my phone. Then Jesse makes me kiss Noah “right there” on his head before I leave church, on the same spot I kissed when I left the hospital on the day that he was born. And then my cousin’s three year old son runs over and gives me a rose in the middle of my uncle’s memorial service.
And there it is – beauty in the midst of ugly.
And there it is – God right in the middle of it.
I’ve long held to the idea that God shows up uniquely through people, through our relationships with each other. I remember talking to Jesse about it early in our friendship when we were staying the night at a friend’s house, sharing their guest room, at that time of the night that is actually very early in the morning and that makes lips seem to loosen. I remember telling her that I know that a lot of people experience God’s presence in a palpable way when they’re walking in the woods and see a butterfly or wildflower or, like my mom, when they’re standing at the ocean’s shore and feeling very small in relation to the bigness of His creation. I remember sharing with her that I’ve always experienced the palpable presence of God when I’m with people and we’re laughing until we’re crying, or we’re engrossed in conversations about what we’re scared of at our very cores or the dreams we’d like to chase if we didn’t have to worry about paying student loans or mortgages, or we’re holding hands and praying out loud. I stand on this thought even more strongly now, after so many people have demonstrated to me the beauty of love in the bleakest of moments.
Like, a quiet place to sleep after two days of not sleeping. Like, a patched tire after three weeks of going flat every other day. Like, a kiss on my nephew’s head after a sermon about the judgments facing people who abandon God. Like, a rose given in the middle of a memorial service by a three year old with mussed hair and a wide smile.
And there it is – beauty. And there it is – God.