Some dear friends of mine have recently gone though an incredibly tragic and painful experience. Along with them, I want to know “Why?” I want answers. Conclusions. Resolutions. And I know there are none.
Although there are no satisfying answers, I do believe beauty rises from our suffering – but just not quickly.
It will come, in its own time. So in the meantime, we sit in the pain and learn how to manage with it.
While reading Beauty —The Invisible Embrace I was reminded again of the promise from God that beauty will rise from our ashes.
In the words of John O’Donohue…
More often than not, we feel so enmeshed in the life we have that the prospect of change appears remote or impossible. Thus, we continue on the tracks that we have laid down for ourselves. We are unable to think in new ways and we gradually teach ourselves to forget the other horizons.
We unlearn desire.
Quietly, over time, we succumb to the dependable script of the expected life and become masters of the middle way.
We avoid extremes and after a while we no longer even notice the pathways off to the side and no longer sense the danger and disturbance that could be experienced “out there.” We learn to fit our chosen world with alarming precision and regularity.
Often it takes a huge crisis or trauma to crack the dead shell that has grown ever more solid around us. Painful as that can be, it does resurrect the longing of the neglected soul.
It makes a clearance. Again we can see the horizons and feel their attraction. Though we may wince with vulnerability as we taste the exhilaration of freedom, we feel alive!
Once we recognize how control and self-protection rob life of all vitality and rhythm, we will find ourselves slowly advancing towards the threshold of risk and trust once more.
Because life is so short and its invitations so thrilling, it is such a waste to become absent from life.
Although there are no guarantees in the kingdom of risk, nature shows us, time and again, that it is precisely at that moment of greatest risk, the moment when everything could be lost, that the greatest change happens.
It is difficult to find the courage and vision at the points of deepest wounding to believe that new risk can take us into new life. But there is no alternative.
When we decide to explore our lives through creative expression, it is often surprising to discover that the things that almost destroyed us are the very things that want to talk to us.
The wound has left its imprint. And yet after all this time the dark providence of the suffering wants to somehow illuminate our lives so that we can no discover the unseen gift that it bequeathed. The labor and discipline of creativity refines our blemished seeing, and gradually an unexpected gift comes to light.
Perhaps creative expression is a way of telling something indirectly that we could never tell out straight.
Beauty is not all brightness. In the shadowlands of pain and despair we find slow, dark beauty. Beauty is never one-dimensional or one-sided. This is why even in awful circumstances we can still meet beauty. In human confusion and brokenness there is often a slow beauty present and at work.
The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold beauty of perfect form.
This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the age of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart.
Where woundedness can be refined into beauty a wonderful transfiguration takes place. For instance, compassion is one of the most beautiful presences a person can bring to the world and most compassion is born from one’s own woundedness.
Beauty’s light comes up slowly and shyly along the edges of limitation, confusion, anxiety, and helplessness.
A spirit of graciousness often emerges when the human heart reaches into its own nobility and allows the destructive reaction to disappointment and hurt to open into something more healing and creative. Regardless of outer circumstances and even inner turbulence, we always have the freedom to choose differently. This is a difficult freedom. In many instances, it may be beyond our reach. However, the freedom to choose graciousness is a freedom no one can take from us.
The flaw will take us down pathways we would otherwise never have traveled.
We begin to discover new landscapes. Although the journey becomes slow and frequently arduous, through the fractured lens of more vulnerable vision we learn to see neglected corners of the heart that have long awaited the affections of our eyes. We come to remember again that we were not sent here for worldly achievement alone. We find that we are being gently rescued from the illusion of progress, and fragile dimensions of the exiled soul begin to return.
When you become vulnerable, any ideal or perfect image you may have had of yourself falls away.
Many people are addicted to perfection and in their pursuit of the ideal they have no patience with vulnerability. They close off anything that might leave them open to the risk of hurt.
So many people are infected with the virus of perfection.
They cannot rest; they allow themselves no ease until they come close to the cleansed domain of perfection. This false notion of perfection does damage and puts their lives under great strain.
It is a wonderful day in a life when one is finally able to stand before the long, deep mirror of one’s own reflection and view oneself with appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness. On that day one breaks through the falsity of images and expectation which have blinded one to one’s spirit. One can only learn to see who one is when one learns to view oneself with the most intimate and forgiving compassion. Such a glimpse of one’s essence can utterly rejuvenate a life and enable one to find the hidden wisdom in the beauty of the flaw.
Give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. —Isaiah 61.3