I was reading a bit today about “the beauty of God”, and the difference between the power of attraction and power through hierarchies. The goodness and kindness and tenderness of God attracts us, and that’s a different kind of power than being told to submit to someone who can otherwise inflict some kind of punishment. That’s not the kind of power God works with. God is beautiful, and a delight to those who “come and see”. And because God is beautiful, we want to come, and be with her.
That’s the only way it will ever work, the only way to establish a relationship, to build trust. There is beauty in people, and when we recognise it, we are attracted by it. I’m looking for this beauty. Not surface beauty. No, I’m looking for beauty in how people live together, in how we treat ourselves and others, in how we pray together, in how we learn to live with our limitations, in how we learn to know God. There is beauty in this, a great depth and width and breadth of beauty that goes beyond every horror that has happened to us or that has been done to us or that we have done to ourselves and to others.
I know such beautiful people. And I know such beauty in God. That’s what draws me, that’s what gives me direction. I have so much to learn. So much to forget, or unlearn. Trust doesn’t come easily to me, there is a leap of faith involved, and I tend to be careful with that. But I trust beauty. Sometimes that goes wrong too, and I see beauty where there is only a well-performed surface.
With some people, and with God, there’s no rush. There are no time limits to find out if there’s truth in God’s beauty. God is here. God is in it for good, and whatever time I need until I trust what I hope for and let go of what I fear, that’s the time I have. Until I can trust that she isn’t going to leave the second I start to believe her love for me, the moment I commit.
So I trust beauty. And I take my time. And whenever I fail, and things go wrong, and I let myself down or others let me down, God will just be with me. Just here. For as long as it takes. Until I look at her again. Until I see. There’s nothing between me and God, between me and this beauty in God that is so beyond me and so close, that is love and joy and peace and truth. And I’ll spend my life returning right to this place, to her, over and over and over again.
This is beauty that inspires trust. Beauty that invites me to come and see and stay and to keep looking at her, to fall in love more completely than I ever have been with anyone or anything else – God is the love in me and God is who I love. When I pray, God prays in me. To have this feels like so much more than anything else could ever be. I’m not sure I can explain it to those who have not experienced God at a “deep, sweet level”, as Richard Rohr puts it. God is not a theory, an intellectual curiosity on my mind, an academic research project. God is not my imagination, my creativity, my sensuality, my hopes or needs. God is independent of all that and still draws all of me into knowing her. I learn to get to know myself quite a bit on this way deeper into God. Sometimes I shed layers that covered up things I need to know about myself. Sometimes God points back to a lot of painful memories and we walk through them again and again, until I can let some of it go, until it matters a bit less. And while this is part of the process, it leads to me being able to love others a bit better, and always, always to know God more. To know the love of God, and God’s faithfulness and stability and compassion for all of us. Me, and those who hurt me and those I hurt. We live with each other. We learn to face each other, and not to run away from pain. I get a lot of practice in staying when I’d rather hide. It’s part of Community life. It’s what deepens life for all of us. It’s often not pleasant, or easy, and yet this kind of faithfulness adds more value to our days than anything else would. And God does that for me in a much more comprehensive way. God said yes to me, and that’s it. This will not change. And that’s the kind of relationship that has the potential to change me for the better. Only when I know that I’m safe can anything of importance happen for me. Then I can take risks, open myself to new possibilities, accept new challenges, forgive. Only then. And with people, it’s so much more difficult, because we rarely feel really safe with each other. With God, it’s a different situation.
All of this, it’s pretty much this story of the merchant who sold everything for a pearl, or the man who sold everything he owned to buy a field that he knew had a hidden treasure in it – there are things worth giving everything else away for. And there’s no force or coercion involved. I commit myself to what I want most of all. I see God’s beauty and I know this is what I want. Nothing else comes even close. This is what will satisfy me. This is worth dedicating my whole life to. I’ve never seen anything as beautiful anywhere else. I’ve looked for beauty. This is the only place I found that I now want too much to walk away again, because it draws me and fills my heart in ways nothing else ever has.
Isn’t that what love is like?