I had a most startling experience today. Not startling in the way that meeting the misfortunate Mr. Wayne last Thursday was startling. And not startling in the same way that it was startling to wake up both Friday and Saturday mornings coughing up blood. It was a different sort of startling.
I must write this post in a somewhat different manner than is typical for me. I suppose it will be somewhat conversational, or maybe stream of consciousness. I am not sure. I just think I ought to write. Usually I would prefer to first gather all my thoughts into an organized and systematic outline. But I am not doing that now. This is not my preferred method of writing, but it seems best considering my situation. I am afraid that if I were to try to organize my thoughts about my experience today I might lose some of them. I am afraid that if I wait until I have processed it all in an effort to make the most sense of it, I might whittle away at the raw materials of the experience and end up creating an image made in my own likeness. An image that would be, now doubt, an idol of sorts - something worthless and not worth any time.
So, this afternoon I was on the way to the doctor. Going to the doctor has become a rather common thing for me. Most of my life I have preferred to avoid the doctor. However, in 2004 that changed. Doctors have become a more regular part of existence. They seem to be the chosen means by which the sustainer of all things sustains me.
Since November I have come to view the doctors as an even more necessary part of my life and my visits have become more frequent.
I had an appointment that was for this past Tuesday that I rescheduled for this Thursday. Well today, Wednesday, I accidentally scheduled an interview for the very time that my doctor’s appointment was scheduled on for Thursday. So, I called the doctor’s office at 2 this afternoon to see if they would take me today. They always work me in whenever I ask them to, I suppose that is the benefit of being a familiar face to them (or at least a familiar chart).
I set out to make the drive that I so often make. But this drive is what was primarily so startling. It is a drive that I have made many times before. I used to love the drive. It really is through some beautiful countrysides.
However, the drive has recently become 45 minutes for me to vent my frustration. That is because for the past few months, I almost exclusively make the drive to go to the doctor.
As I sit there riding along my mind tends to question the goodness of the One who is good. I can question, and become bitter, at the one that knit me together in my mother’s womb. He knit me without an important part of my genes. And, as a result, I must go to the doctor, and they must take my blood, and they must read it, and they must give me medicine to keep it from killing me.
Somewhere, in a few places even, He says, “Life is in the blood.” The maddening irony is that, in my blood, there is also a good bit of death as well.
It can be hard to not think about these things as I make my way from Littleton down Bowers through Bear Swamp onto Hwy 48 through Rheasville and Beaverdam Swamp onto I-95 until 64 E takes me to the doctor.
It can also be hard to not think about the way that my blood has shattered a dream or two of mine. It is hard to not think about the way it rattled my sense of divine purpose and destiny as I lay on the CWR dock looking at the stars while feeling very small that summer of 2004.
I cannot deny that I love working where I am now. And I do realize that I would not be here were it not for the difficult things that I have had to face up to this point, but there is still this haunting fear in the back of my mind. A fear that my broken body might one day take down the sense of purpose that I have here in this ministry too. It has already disabled me from service to His Kingdom abroad, perhaps it will still yet disable me for service here in Littleton.
I know that such thoughts do not come from the Lord. But it would seem that my broken body does. The thoughts do not come from the Lord, but they do come right about the time that I pass that church with the red bricks and the two towers nestled between the even more towering oaks.
I suppose I have spent a lot of time thinking about some rather terrible and ugly things on my drive to the doctor.
But that didn’t quite happen today.
The drive today was more like a dream. Like a dream so pleasant that I quite nearly feared it. At times it almost had a nightmarish quality to it. That was what was so startling. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Maybe it had such a startling quality that it almost seemed like a nightmare.
I kept having the sensation that I was lost. Repeatedly. Though I was not conscious of having made any unusual turns, I felt as though I kept ending up in places that I had never been.
I kept seeing things that I had never seen before. Things that were so strikingly remarkable that it seemed impossible that I could have ever passed them by without having noticed them.
And then there was also the eerie sensation that I was seeing the old things again in a way that I never had before.
Everything was so surprising.
Everything was so beautiful.
I noted with a sense of hilarity how the crooked shadow of the straight telephone pole looked on the earthen rows of a recently plowed field.
I marveled at the uniformity of the pine fields as they strained upward in tight rows. But maybe they were not all that uniform after all. As I looked closer, and I feel that I did because the whole drive was experienced in slow motion, I saw that all of the trees were unique. And I was sorry that I thought they were so uniform and simple. And I was saddened by the lack of time to stop and note the many ways in which each tree was different from the others.
As I approached Bear Swamp I thought it looked like a place that you would never want to let people go to. It seemed too beautiful to be touched. As I looked at it out my window as I passed through it, I thought again that it is not a place that you would want people to go to. But this time I thought that to be more the case because it looked like one of the scary places that you hear about in good children’s stories. It looked like a playground for devils.
I thought I had made a wrong turn for certain when I saw that chimney standing by itself. The house had long collapsed into a heap of rubble but the chimney alone remained. It seemed to me to be an excellent picture of both man’s strength and his frailty.
I saw the tall, dead grass that was bent over by the wind. And I thought it marvelous that the grass would make such a graceful bow. But then I wondered if the top of the grass was really bent over or if the middle of it was simply reaching upwards.
I saw a field whose sole purpose seemed to be to direct one’s attention to the Bradford Pear in the middle of it.
I stopped at an intersection that would have seemed more familiar to me had I been able to take my attention off of the vine-covered pole. Those vines were all over that pole. How could I have not seen it before? I wonder why vines would want to climb so high.
Beaverdam Swamp – that’s a swamp where some kids could play. It looks like it was made for boys and adventures. I’m not sure what it was about it, but it looked like a place for boys to be heroes and fight dragons and save princesses and beat bad guys.
Everything seemed more alive and more beautiful. I suppose all these things have been there all along, but I had not yet seen them.
So much beauty and delight and magic in that drive. So much to be startled by. And all the more startling was how often I have let it go unnoticed.
I have so often missed it for the darkness and pain of my own mind as it questions its Maker.
The philosophers of old wrote of three transcendentals: the good, the true, and the beautiful. They said that if anything was good that it must then also be true and beautiful. If anything was true, then it must also be good and beautiful. And finally, if anything was beautiful, then it had to be also good and true.
I believe that all three things, the good and the true and the beautiful are found in, and flow from, our God.
I believe He is good and the good.
I believe He is true and the true.
I believe He is beautiful and the beautiful.
But, there are moments when I doubt. I find that I often echo the prayer of an ancient brother who cried: “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!”
Today, when I wanted to question that He is good and that He is true, I found that His Spirit would not let me question that He is beautiful. His beauty is evident even in the fallen and broken world that He created.
It makes me sad that we cannot enjoy every piece of the beauty that is in this world at this time. I could live my same life up to this point a hundred times over and never fully take in all the beauty that I have seen.
Yet I have hope. Maybe that is part of the glory of an eternity in the New Creation. A New Creation would be a most terrible tease if we did not have an eternity to enjoy it. I think in glory I will forever be able to pass by that particular oak once more. I will be able to look on with hilarity at the crooked shadow cast across the rows of dirt for as long as I like. There will be no reason to not take the time to marvel at every particular curve of the vine as it climbs upward. I can listen again and again to the chirping of the birds and their sweet serenade that, in a world without beauty, is senseless, but in a world with beauty, is perfect.
I got to the doctor refreshed but also overwhelmed. That may not make sense, but it is how I felt. I checked in and took a seat. In an effort to take my mind off of what had happened, not because it was bad but because I do not fully understand it, I opened my book to the page where I had left off. For whatever reason, I had left that particular chapter of my book, The Man Who Was Thursday, unfinished. So I located the last paragraph I had read and resumed the story.
This is what I read:
“He felt a strange and vivid value in all the earth around him, in the grass under his feet; he felt the love of life in all living things. He could almost fancy that he heard the grass growing; he could almost fancy that even as he stood fresh flowers were springing up and breaking into blossom in the meadow – flowers blood-red and burning gold and blue, fulfilling the whole pageant of spring.”
Life is good because He is good. Life is true because He is true.
Life is beautiful because He is beautiful.
Among other things, I was reminded of that today.
On a side note: I realize that this post may not make sense to anyone but me. If that is the case, it is most certainly due to my inability to communicate clearly or even think clearly about the experience. I also anticipate that someone might read it and say “Ahh, Luke has too much time on his hands.” While it is possible that one might think that, I hope it is evident that I write because I actually believe that I, no we, currently have too little time.