The Beauty in the Darkness

today's UPI column

(this was written before the awful news from Pennsylvannia yesterday - it makes this painfully poignant - but I stand by every word - And the testimony of our Amish pacifist brothers and sisters in the face of evil - is indeed beautiful - I am praying, as I am sure you are, for all the grieving families)

So There I was...

…six years old – on a family summer vacation in a cabin by a lake in Wisconsin. I was tucked into a warm bed on a back sleeping porch. It had been a warm August day, but the summer night air was decidedly cool. I had played myself into righteous childhood exhaustion. My parents were sleeping in another room - my brothers were near by. There were no locks on the doors. All was quiet, and with no moon that night, stunningly dark.

Sleeping deeply, at first I was not even aware as the strong male hands folded the blankets under me, and lifted me from the bed. Groggy, when the voice whispered “Shush, don’t wake anyone.” I obeyed.

It was only when I was carried out the back porch door, and slipped out into the dark woods, that I realized what a strange thing was going on. I looked up into the face of the man carrying me.

“Daddy, why are we out in the woods in the middle of the night?”

“I’ve got something important to show you, Peg.”

Good enough for me. I think I snoozed some more as he walked on.
Up a hill and into a clearing.

“Daddy, it’s cold!”
“I know, Honey. Look up”

He cradled me in his arms and I looked up into the night sky. There was a meteor shower going on – the Perseid meteor shower to be exact. And it was a good show that year. Stars rocketed like fireworks across the heavens.

“Wow, the stars are running all around!”
“Peggy I want you always to remember this – sometimes you have to go out into the dark and the cold to see the really beautiful things that God has to show you.”

I remember.

Being as we are; human, mortal, fragile, stuck in time and space, we tend to have human, fragile, and stuck values. Pain is bad- pleasure is good. Life is good – death is bad. Wealth is good – poverty is bad, and so on.

Unable to do much in the way of comprehending the actuality of God, we tend to project upon the Divine our own values. Surely God agrees with us, wants for us what we want, right?

I think perhaps not.

Here’s what I have observed about God’s apparent values.

I think that God cares more about beauty than comfort.
I think God cares more about courage than safety.
I think God cares for about freedom than good behavior.
I think God cares more about sacrifice than suffering.
I think God cares more about generosity that wealth.
I think God cares more about honor than position.
I think God cares more about truth than harmony.
I think God cares more about grace than rewards or punishment.

I think the list goes on.

To see the things that God cares about, you have to go into some pretty cold dark places of human behavior. War is evil – in every case, but in the dark, joyless, airless mineshafts of war there are sometimes found diamonds of human nobility, honor and sacrifice that stand out more brilliantly for the despicable background.

In the midst of our cold harsh treatment of the homeless and the mentally ill, I have seen kindness and courage.

I have camped out in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and while the amenities are nothing to right home about, there is a little restaurant there called “In the Presence of my Enemies”, where the Maitre de is Jesus and the kitchen is full of cooking angels. You can always get a table there. No reservations required.

I have seen sick and suffering children preach sermons of simple hope and truth that Spurgeon and Dr. King could not touch. If it were up to me, no children would ever suffer. It appears to me that God wants to hear them preach.

I hear people say;
“I don’t want a God who claims to be loving, but lets this stuff happen!”

I get this. But I honestly don’t think we get to pick our God. I think we get to pick our response to God. I think we get to spend our lives aligning our values (or not) to a cosmic set of values in which death and pain are no longer relevant. Old Father Job expressed this when he said “Though you slay me, yet will I trust you” {italic(13:15).}

I choose to believe that God’s values are better than mine, because I have seen the beauty in the darkness.

I remember, dad. It's hard today, but I remember.

"I honestly don't think we get to pick our God."

Yes. Terrible, but yes.

Thanks, Peggy.
This is one I'm going to pass around.
This reminds me of something Mother Teresa said. It is a story quoted in her Nobel lecture.

"I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at Jesus because he can be very demanding sometimes. This is really something true, and there is where love comes - when it is demanding, and yet we can give it to Him with joy."

Thanks again for writing about what the Lord has been prodding me about lately.
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