A couple weeks ago, I was driving to someone’s house to buy an antique mahogany dresser for my daughter’s room. I was willing to drive an hour away to buy it, and I was willing to pay more than I normally would pay for a dresser. Why? Because I thought it was beautiful: beautiful, sturdy, compatible with our other furniture, and useful. It satisfied a longing in my heart to connect with the history and traditions of my forefathers through its tangible manifestation of their handiwork, and it spoke to my soul with its character and uniqueness. On the way to this person’s house, I noticed how the sun was shining in the fullness of its glory, the wildflowers were profusely lining the road, and many houses had neatly tended gardens with the greenest and straightest rows of vegetable plants. I thought how invigorating it was to be out and going somewhere, even if only on a mundane errand, because just getting out of my little house on this gorgeous day was anything but mundane.
While I was driving I started thinking about how we are often willing to travel long distances in order to find new, diverse and exciting aesthetic experiences, but I realized that there is a beauty we can also find readily in our own back yards, no matter how humble they may be. Not only does this beauty invite us to connect with our forefathers on an aesthetic level, but it unites us on a spiritual level and calls us to be a part of the Communion of Saints. Not only does it speak to our souls, it nourishes and heals them. Not only is it useful, and sturdy, but it is, a very foundational part of all creation, both temporally and eternally. I am speaking here of the infinite and inexpressible beauty of God: the beauty that He reveals to us in a million details every day, from the endless view of the stars that show us how vast his forgiveness is, down to that little white butterfly that comes out of nowhere and reminds us He is with us and will take care of everything.
Most of the time it’s easy for me to see that beauty, but I know there are times and circumstances when even the loftiest of sights, sounds, and thoughts can become dull and meaningless. Maybe we don’t have a nice view at work, our yard or house needs repair; maybe we haven’t seen our closest family members for weeks or months; maybe we’re experiencing continual pain, grief, depression, exclusion, or fear? The list goes on…
Where, then is this endless beauty of God, we may ask?
While we know God does not take pleasure in seeing us his children suffer, we also know He allows it to happen. But sometimes, during these phases of suffering, does He not also allow us to begin to change our perception of what beauty is? Maybe we can’t see it with our eyes –maybe we don’t see anything so well with our eyes anymore ;)– but maybe we can begin to see it even more clearly in other ways. St. Augustine of Hippo once said, “Trials and tribulations offer us a chance to make reparation for our past faults and sins. On such occasions the Lord comes to us like a physician to heal the wounds left by our sins. Tribulation is the divine medicine.”
What if we had the vision of St. Augustine and could see that these sufferings we are experiencing now are actually a means to create a spiritual beauty in our world, in ourselves, in our family members, in strangers, or even in those who disrespect and disappoint us? What if we were aware, during lonely, relentlessly chaotic, or intensely painful moments that our discomfort could be a transforming force for good, if we allow it to take us into a deep meditation of Christ’s sufferings for us and realize that his Agape-or unconditional and sacrificing- love is the most beautiful thing we could ever know?
What if, instead of complaining that we can’t go on vacation, we take a little trip to see Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and console Him Who goes nowhere and always waits for us? What if, instead of gossiping to our friends about how we wronged we have been, we go to confession and tell God how wrong we have been? What if, instead of finding viewpoints to disagree with and spreading conflict, we strive to see the beauty of Jesus in others, and treat them accordingly? What if instead of seeing our lives as uncertain, we see them as new and ever-unfolding? Unfolding in beauty towards the light of Jesus’ merciful rays shining down even more gloriously than the sun.
– Cecilia Gruetzmacher