Several nights last week I found myself driving home late at night, an unusual occurrence for a single parent of a small child. The evening air was particularly delicious and I thought about nights like these, long before parental responsibility had a claim on my actions, When I would steal away to some park or another at night and enjoy the stars and darkness and quiet, or just drive an old road until I got tired enough to go home. I had a roaming impulse once again, but not nearly as large as my love, so I just smiled and remembered and went on home. Then I found myself this weekend at a camp along the fault line towards the eastern end of the state. I'm convinced that Tennessee is one of the most beautiful states in the country As I sat in the shade of some trees near the edge of a gorge with a particularly ravishing view, I prayed and read and wrote and recalled luxurious days when I could indulge in quiet hours alone in nature.
And I wrote; I watch a hawk gliding in effortless circles over the valley as shadows of clouds create moving pictures over the forests below. To glimpse the smallness, the ugliness, of what people have built against the backdrop of such beauty is humbling. I recall a short conversation had with a college friend years ago, probably long forgotten by now, of the connection between beauty and terror. True beauty is terrifying, either in its ability to destroy or create or sometimes both. Beauty I suppose always looks ugly in the details. If I were to hike the forest before me, I would be swallowed in cycles of death and decay, exhausted by the twists and turns and climbs, cut down by each thorn or brier that blocks my way. There is little sun on the trail and the darkness makes you feel tiny, and unbearably lonely. But from here I see the masterpiece, the purpose. Here I feel the breeze and watch the clouds whirl with intricate steps past the sun, melting and reforming, constantly reshaping themselves. I see the faithfulness of the sun, hidden sometimes, but ever present. I see the enduring shape of things and how each dip and rise creates the whole. Here I am not immune to the mosquitoes, but they eat away at my flesh only, leaving my spirit intact. I am thankful for the perseverance of life in the midst of a broken and dirty world. I am thankful for each tree that reaches towards heaven, unaware of its brethren that do the same, unaware even more so of the masterpiece woven by all of them together standing alone but faithful. It makes me want to dance and cry and sing and write and wish I could paint. It makes me want to get down on the trail and whisper to each tree, "If only you could see the picture I saw. If only you could get up there. You would see how beautiful it all is. You would see how perfect you were created to be. How it just fits without really making sense." And perhaps, yes perhaps that is just what God is whispering to me.