I was driving down the highway very early (too early) the other day. Snow like sugar on the streets, steam rising from the slip of tires, the sky a pale, unbearable blue. Fingers stiff with cold, eyes dim with sleep and irritation, I tapped the radio on to classical. A piano and violin duet came on, notes blue as twilight, quick as running water. I was leaning forward, into the music. The melody was like the aching run to a hilltop, a breathless climb, and then, joy to the far horizon. It ended. I unslumped in my seat. My eyes widened. I was suddenly aware of that particular moment, the melody invading it, the pearled gleam of snow that lightened it. I looked out my window. Beauty tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to face it, and found God saying good morning.
Ever present, His presence takes me unawares.
I often clutch at beauty, and in it, God’s companionship. I scratch at it with my fingernails because I feel it to be spontaneous, and somehow, fickle. God seems at times like a whimsical friend. Beauty is sudden and unscheduled. A passage of story stabs my heart awake (as R.L. Stevenson would say), music calls my name, some glimpse of nature engulfs my eyes in joy, and I feel alive. Those glimpses convince me that God is really with me. Then, abruptly, they’re gone. Hurry and need and work shove joy out of my life. I grasp at it, but only manage to catch the ache of its leaving. I mourn. Some part of me even feels abandoned. Gradually, I forget the whole thing. I wake up to the weary hours of another daily sort of day, and forget to even want God’s beauty, or his company.
So he taps me on the shoulder. A glint of light off snow, a strain of unexpected music. Up comes my head, as if I had seen a beloved face in a strange city. It’s like thinking someone has abandoned you, when suddenly, you see them across a crowd, waving delightedly, running to greet you. In my car, I looked up and found God running toward me. The song and snow were his call across the crowd. He comes whispering, then dancing in front of me, glinting in and out of my sight, calling my name in laughter and song. His beauty never abandons me, it just keeps waking me up to love him again. And if, at times, it seems fleeting, it’s not from his being fickle, but from my being frail. My own forgetfulness, my rush, my persistent dimness of soul are what make him seem absent. The miracle is that he never leaves me there. Tap. A violin duet. Tap. A crimson sunrise. Tap. Fresh bread. Tap. I look up.
What do you know. He’s still there.