On our last day, the waves were like young Viking warriors. Swift-footed, gold-headed, blue-eyed as summer, they came to us with swords in upraised hands. To swim was to fight. To flail and tumble with each blow of sparkling water. There were instants when my head went down into the surging cold, when fear would scamper across my heart… retreat… and come again. In ocean water there is a grasping of some power that is so much vaster than my own, some chanting of a song so much clearer than my thought, its very touch provokes a sudden trembling. And yet the very wild at its core beats forth its beauty and makes its loveliness unlike any other within the sighted world. I looked upon it, swam within it, and knew that it was good.
I thought something similar last month as I climbed high into the mountains. At one sharp peak, I’d stooped to watch the tree sea in the valley when a shout of thunder sent me jumping to my feet. I spun around and found a storm stalking my steps, its navy, ragged edge now just above my head. Being a few thousand feet nearer the sky here makes lightning a force to be properly feared, so I bolted down the gravel, slipping down the red rock trails to the safety of my cabin. As I ran, I watched, head up, eyes widened as a ship of cloud sailed over me, navy as night, purple as sunset, whipped forward by a desperate wind. I knew the danger that is posed me, the fury it could impartially snap down on my uncovered head. But it was beautiful with a grace only touched in risk. And something inside me knew that it was undeniably good.
Good, as in right. Wholesome. True. I must admit my spirit struggled for an instant in calling something that could kill me “good.” How can something with the power to destroy be good? But in that question, it came to me clearly that I am used to thinking that what is controllable, and loveable, and safe, is what can be called beautiful. Raw power, unbridled energy, make me afraid, and so I usually deem them wrong. It’s a natural response. In the hands of most humans raw power is corrupted. Since the fall, things of power have the ability to hurt, kill, and destroy. In modern society, we are wary of anyone who has to much power. We seek to equalize. Even our modern standard of living keeps us insulated from the vagaries of rogue winds or the wild touch of rain in the night. Power, even when it is breathtakingly beautiful, is something we have learned to avoid.
What does this shape us to believe about God?
I had to ask myself that as I scrambled last month, and swam the other day, because it was God’s creation in which I was finding all this risky beauty. Truth is, God IS unmitigated power. His holiness is a force much greater than the wildest storm that has ever swept over the earth. His ability, his light, his presence, is searing as lightning, earth-shattering, awesome. And dangerous. God’s power, His holy wild is a force that judges and contends with nations, leaving them shattered and destroyed. And yet, His power is incomprehensibly good. Because love is founded in the very nature and core of our Creator, God’s power takes the shape of grace for all those that choose to love and hold fast to Him as their own. I have always been afraid of loving God because I feared His fearsome holiness might find me lacking. But for me, for all God-lovers, I know now that wildness comes to me as mercy. For me, His power is a fierce, earth-altering grace.
Because of this, there is no way I can relate to God as containable, comprehensible, or within grasp of my expectation. Being out in the primeval elements that reflect the force of his soul helped me to remember that. I cannot expect him to respond to evil with passivity, to ultimately allow any rebellion against His goodness to endure. I cannot expect Him to act or be or visit me in ways that fit the neat contours of my modern notions and polite expectations. Neither can I expect Him to leave sin dormant in my heart. To love Him means the destruction of all that is wrong in me.
I have discovered that beauty, that great love of mine, can be dangerous. That storms and seas rollicking up over the edges of creation are risky, and mighty, but ultimately good because their Maker is. And in their wildness I touch a sliver of the power that indwells me, a drop of the riotous grace that floods every corner of my being. It’s true, there are parts of me that will be shattered by His power. But there are also parts of me that will be remade by a loveliness formed of that same strength. Grace given me that is wild as God’s own goodness. And for me, there could be no greater beauty.