I stand on top of a mountain in western North Carolina with the ones I love most. I reach out to touch His canvas and the scene is so fresh, I swear, the paint is still wet. The same reds and oranges that last week sent me hiding are now curiously hemming me in, behind and before, calling me, inviting me to abide. So I settle into the colors that I once feared, open to the possibility that even they are from Him. From this view, the creaking of the cracks and the ripping of the seams from earth’s brokenness are mere echoes swallowed into the beauty He sows. Up here, the mourner’s groans and the griever’s wails dissolve into the open space of God’s hallowed creativity. Much like grief, this beauty cannot be pinned down with words or expression. It cannot be tamed to description or tale. Yet all around I feel the wind of His holy whisper, breathing life into the crooked lines of the cracks that crisscross the earth.
Too often the screams and the moans of the world are all I hear. In my own life, yes, but also in the lives that weave around me, lives I know and lives I imagine, so many stories pointing to how far we have fallen. I bleed from the shards of brokenness that I have felt and from the shards of brokenness that I have dealt. And the wounds seem too deep to heal, too vast to close. So I walk along the crooked lines that mark the earth’s pain, while feeling and dealing the ache of its unraveling.
Here on top of this mountain, it is not that I am able to make sense of all the pain. Instead, I am able to make peace of all the sensing. I have found in His creation a thread to stitch together the pieces that I hold, until He makes me whole. Maybe it is not explanation or rationality that soothes the wounds of the broken heart and the broken world. But instead, might it be His beauty that is ultimately the perfect balm? Perhaps this is why, since Webb’s death, I have so fervently chased after beauty, in poetry and prose, in music and nature. I have found it to be the only power that can match the pain. For as I gaze out onto the paint-brushed tops of trees, I am silenced by a magic that presses in on all sides of me. It rocks me and holds me, sings to me and speaks to me. The echo of the earth’s breaking is a distant whisper beneath the clamoring of God’s creative masterpiece. I see my own pain woven into the intricate contours of this ancient mountain, a landscape bigger than my open wound and smaller than His mighty hand. No, I cannot yet make sense of it, the crisscrossing and interweaving cracks of our brokenness. But as I look out from this mountain at what He has done and all that He has created, I see a fuller picture, a widening light in the cracks, and from where I stand, it is beautiful.