when people hear about what i am doing at this point–that of leaving behind friends and family and a great job to move half-way around the world to return to school and study theology, with no promise of gainful employment at the end of this journey, and without even a clear idea of what that will be–they have a tendency to compliment my faithfulness. or to say how they admire what i am doing. and i have a hard time with that. i have a hard time accepting such praise, as if i had a choice in the matter. it does not feel as though i did, not in light of what i’ve come face-to-face with.
confronted by beauty
i first saw my wife’s smile during my junior year of high school. i can still see the scene so clearly, even now, more than 10 years later. she wasn’t my wife back then, of course. we got married young, but not that young. no, i was sitting in the audience of our homecoming assembly at that point, as she walked onto stage to be crowned freshman class royalty. she was dressed in an elegant gown, with a tiara resting gently on top of her head, and she was wearing the most beautiful smile i have ever seen. i found myself sitting in the middle of that auditorium thinking, “why don’t i know this girl?…” and then, “i will know her soon enough.” about nine months later, i told my mom I believed God created that smile just for me, and i meant it. i knew i could not imagine my life without it, and i spent the next five years of my life pursuing its permanent place in my life.
the same thing is true with my response to God. i first heard the Good News of God’s love a long time ago. while i was still a young boy. and i fell in love with it then. upon first hearing how He loved us so much that He sent His Son to die in our place, so that we might enjoy eternity in His presence. i love that. and i think it’s beautiful. that of God’s perfect, love-saturated sacrifice for an undeserving creation. even as a young boy, i knew i didn’t deserve that kind of love. and i feel the same way about it now. but i also knew i wanted that kind of a relationship. i wanted to live in His love. i still do. and ever since i first heard that Good News, God has been chasing me down. waving His arms in my face as if to say,
look, everything else, all of this life and its many temptations are merely a distraction to this Good News. it will all, ultimately, leave you wanting. but this, this will not. My love will take up the whole of your desires, and it will fill you to the point of overflow.”
building a life that doesn’t feel empty
and it has. it has completely. somewhere along the way, He helped me realize that if my life were spent devoted to anything but helping others realize the infinite beauty of this Good News, it would be a life that, ultimately, felt empty. at the end of this road, i want to be able to look back and say, “there, that’s the difference my life made. that’s the road that my hands helped build. a road that led directly from that person’s feet to the loving arms of a Heavenly Father Who made it possible to receive such love.”
but I certainly can’t take the credit for this desire. no more than i can take the credit for falling head-over-heels in love with that beautiful smile that first captivated me from my seat in our high school auditorium so many years ago. that was simply the rightful response to my experience with beauty. but the beauty lies in my wife. not in me. it also lies in God’s Good News. what choice did I have but to respond with my life? none, so far as I can see it.
the most beautiful thing i have ever known
when we see, clearly, the love of our Heavenly Father, made visible by the life, death and resurrection of the Son, on our behalf, there is simply nothing we can do but fall head-over-heels in love. it is, quite simply, the most beautiful thing i have ever known. (i married my wife for more than simply her beautiful smile, of course, just as i consider myself a christian for far more than the beauty of this Good News.)
the compliments and the admiration rightfully belong to Him. He is the source of all that is good, and i am merely called to say, “look, look at what He is doing! it is beautiful. how can we not desire to drop all we’re doing and be a part of it?”