Sometimes you go to the woods because where else would you hear what’s growing in your own tired soul?
Sometimes when we feel broken — we need beauty to heal — and He is Beauty Himself. Noise or news or new fangled ways of communicating won’t communicate healing like Beauty does, and all the loud incoming doesn’t speak to us like coming into beauty —- and being still enough to hear Him.
Mock your need of beauty and you laugh at what your soul needs. When there’s no end to the cynicism and sarcasm and criticism, we can get to the end of ourselves.
And where our lens to see beauty is broken that’s where we break even more. Failing to seek beauty everywhere, is a failure to see Christ in everything.
The trail winds through the woods and I wander slow. Sometimes the rootedness of trees grounds you in unshakeable ways. It’s clearer in the trees, through the forest:
God is a creator more than a dictator,
a sculptor more than a prosecutor,
an artist more than a scientist,
a romantic more than a critic.
There’s an exhale in this, if you want to feel it.
God is Beauty and He is making all the ugly beautiful. There’s shatteredness and brokenness and the wounding edges of all the things, and there’s purple myrtle densely matting the forest floor, petals studding the dark green leaves. It’s everywhere, really, beauty for the taking, for the seeing. Beauty isn’t found in seeing certain things, beauty is found in how we seeing everything. Seek Beauty and you will find it.
Always: Seek and you will find — because whatever the eyes look for, the soul sees.
And I wasn’t expecting it, not like that at all, but when I wind a bit of the corner, there it is, and our willowy girl behind me on the trail, she kinda catches her breath, like the wind’s blown in, because there it is — a chapel of glass. Rising 48 feet into the early spring sky.
The soul needs the loveliness of beauty as much as it needs love. Because Love Himself is Beauty.
“Can we just, you know, come here every week?” our girl whispers it over my shoulder.
The kid makes me laugh — and kinda yearn too. Yearn for the stillness of trees and the rising of unlikely grace and the beckon of a mountainside chapel to come sit under the kindness of God.
Goodness and wholeness and kindness hide in Beauty.
As Plato wrote: “The power of the good has taken refuge in the Beautiful.”
The wooden doors of ThornCrown chapel swing open to this unexpected cathedral of glass, and what is this space that’s a wide open invitation to weary sojourners to come and lay the brokenness down?
Sometimes you don’t know how busted and battle weary you are until you let yourself sit a spell in a silent space and listen to a crow call from the top of a white oak and you sense the Holy Spirit descend like an unfolding of weightless wings and what if the burdens slid down and you breathed?
What if the burden is you?
I keep forgetting how to breathe.
There’s a squirrel sitting on an outcropping of flagstone on the far side of the pews, on the other side of the glass. There are no walls in this chapel — only glass, only seeing, only seeing down the mountainside, only being seen.
What if the Beauty of the church was that it had no walls, only open doors, only open windows, only the openness of being fully seen — and fully welcomed?
What if church was a place where our most broken places could be seen — and we were loved most in those broken places?
What if the beauty of the Gospel captured the world’s attention more than the bustedness of this world?
What if we moved the world with the beauty of the sacred, more than we shook our fists at the secular and the sinners?What if the church resisted shaming the world into moral conformity, but embodied the irresistible beauty of cruciformity?
There’s a cross etched into the glass at the very front of ThornCrown chapel and it looks like a cross suspended in mid-air, like our only Hope come down to reach us.
God knew the outreach of a cross was far more attractive than the cross outrage of anyone.
Outreach is infinitely more attractive than outrage.
And God’s wrath become nail-scarred hands that wrap up our wounds, and God’s bare given heart becomes the beauty that heals us, and God’s witness of our brokenness, and His with-ness in our brokenness — breaks our brokenness.
I know what I am feeling — and being fool enough to still long enough in the Beauty of His presence let me sense what I hadn’t known?
Fearfulness grows out of feelings of aloneness. But when we know we will never be abandoned — we can abandon our fears.
Enduring Beauty is with us, and Relentless Love is with us, and Defiant Hope is with us, and Emmanuel is with us, and God is with us. Breathing can become grace.
And there it is, written in the brochure on my lap, ThornCrown’s welcome: “At the centre of every light in the chapel is a cross. These crosses whisper to you that because of Christ, there is no place God will not go and no one He will not bless.
You are never beyond God’s love, and you are never alone. God is present even in the midst of your greatest need, your greatest weakness, and your greatest failures. Grace would have it no other way.”
Graces chokes the busted up — because who can swallow the audacity of a love like this?
I look up — Crosses everywhere. Evidence of the Beauty of Christ’s outreach everywhere.
I run these sorry hands across the page, as if the ink, the truth, could rub into me, become me. Maybe the Beauty we all ultimately are seeking is the Beauty of being found under the safe arms of the Cross?Grace would have it no other way — but to come find you no matter what way you’ve taken.
And the outreach of the Cross reaches you no matter the mess of things, and if He has removed your busted sinfulness as far as the East is from the West, you aren’t beyond the love of God — you are called the Beloved of God.
Those in need of a real Savior, need time for real beauty, because that’s a reflection of who He really is.
Those in need of a real Savior, need to seek the outreach of real arms, because that love is always really His.
And those in need of a real Savior, need to make space to sit in real grace, because that’s the only space God means for you to breathe.
Grace would have it no other way — but to make a way.
And I sit in the back of ThornCrown chapel and watch through the glass walls of the chapel, how the crow makes its way higher up the mountain, higher into the sky.
And maybe souls who break with growth, with the beauty of grace, find places to rise again.