I find I am on a beauty hunt these days, these days filled with doctors, drugs and diets. I am hungry for glimpses of that country where suffering does not exist, where longing is fulfilled and the end of desire is found. Suffering cuts through the illusions I construct that deaden the call of my true home and the rest found there. It removes the film that covers my eyes and darkens my sight. It makes me yearn for beauty.
I am always amazed at beauty; it is unnecessary yet of immense value. In our materialist culture, value is assigned to those things we perceive to be useful to us and our needs. When He created the world, God could have made it utilitarian, serviceable and functional. Instead He chose to fill it with cuttlefish (Thomas’ oceanic obsession) and birds of paradise, poetry and music, color and texture. With so much of our time and energy devoted to health, I find the moments of beauty pierce me more deeply and profoundly than in my more ‘normal’ days before cancer visited our family. As I play Bach or laugh with my kids as we jump on the tramp, or see the thinnest sliver of light surround the moon, or sing with my ‘sisters’ in church, I feel the call and my heart thrills. I am reminded this is true living, not the sin that so easily encumbers nor the satisfaction with material things that so often deafens my ears to the call, and makes me numb to respond. The response is always thanksgiving and wonder. Wonder at the mystery and depth of it all and the gift of hearing the call.
I am grateful for these glimpses. Too often I live like the dwarves in The Last Battle, satisfied with their straw and mud because that is what they see, when a beautiful feast is all around them if only their eyes were open to it. Instead they are happy being in control of their straw. I settle for too little, too often and so in this, I can be grateful for this suffering because it throws the blinders off my eyes and brings into focus the call. If only it were my suffering, and not my son’s…. There is pain in this too. Still, I hear the tune, calling to me and I respond with thanks, for these glimmers of what is to come. In the pain, the daily stress, the sadness for my son’s suffering, the incessant reminder of our frailty, here in it, there is still comfort. The mysterious paradox of redemptive suffering, two things that seem opposed to each other at first glance but in God’s economy are fit together in a mosaic, seems more profound each passing day of this journey. He has not left us alone; He has given Himself, the ultimate example of redemptive suffering.
“The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. – CS Lewis, 1942, ‘The Weight of Glory’