One son is away at church camp. The other son has driver’s ed in the mornings. My husband is at work. This means I’m home alone for THREE whole hours. I honestly cannot remember the last time that happened.
Still trying to remember.
Nope. No wonder I’m so giddy.
Instead of filling this time with chores, I’ve been trying to fill it with what I actually need. This means slowing down and thinking about what it is that I actually need. I know exactly what everyone else needs. For starters, they need clean socks. They need, they need, they need.
What do I need?
I say a little prayer while driving in the car where I practically live these days.
Lord, what do I need today?
You need beauty.
Ah, yes. Beauty. I know how peaceful I feel when I’m surrounded by beauty. I know I never get enough of it. I crave it and yet…it’s not exactly on my daily to do list.
John and Stasi Eldredge explain the need for beauty in their book Captivating:
Beauty is essential to God. No–that’s not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3) In what way? Primarily through its beauty.
Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. We’re so used to evaluating everything (and everyone) by their usefulness that this thought will take a minute or two to begin to dawn on us. Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Which is to say, beauty is in and of itself a great and glorious good, something we need in large and daily doses (for our God has seen fit to arrange for this).
So I decide to go home and change into my walking shoes. The dog gets very excited whenever she sees my shoes because she thinks I’ll take her for a walk. I have let her down so many times, but today she is going to get her wish.
I take the dog leash off its hook as she thumps me with her thick tail. She is beside herself. The back of the SUV lifts and she leaps into the car like a young pup.
We back out of the driveway and head toward the county park. It’s beautiful there. As we get closer I start to wonder if it will be busy. My heart starts to race and I feel fear.
The last time I took the dog to the park for a walk without my husband it ended badly. A grandpa type man yelled at me and my children. He threw the f bomb around and threatened to get a gun. Because of my dog. Because of me. Because I couldn’t control her and he thought she was going to hurt his small dog. She would never. She’s just a big dumb lab. He was out of control angry and I was afraid. He even followed me in his car out of the park. I thought he was going to follow me home.
That was five years ago.
I park the car and look around. There are only a couple of people out in the field. This shouldn’t be that big of a deal so I open the back hatch and let Mocha out. She is so excited that she can barely stand still long enough to put the leash over her head, but I am afraid.
Mocha wants to sniff and explore and pee and I am holding on for dear life because I am afraid.
I look around and see no one. There are no bullies here.
I bend over to remove the leash and set her free.
She darts ahead and sniffs her chocolate heart out.
She is free to run ahead. I allow her some distance and then test her by calling her name. She comes running back to me. This is progress.
She’s not the same dog she was five years ago. She’s mellowed a bit and I see that even as she runs ahead of me she stops to make sure I’m not far behind. She’s looking out for me too. Suddenly I’m not afraid. I’m able to look around and take in the beauty that Jesus wants me to see.
Everything is green. The ground is soaked from the storms. Birds soar and wildflowers sway. Frogs and insects sing their song. My lungs are breathing in the sweet fragrance in the air. It’s gorgeous. We follow the bend in the trail and come to a fallen tree. I have to decide whether to turn back or keep moving forward.
I see that it’s possible to go around and I try not to think about the ticks hitching a ride in my hair as I go off the trail. Mocha is having the time of her life while I coach myself out loud. You can do this, Nic. Going off the trail is not the end of the world. That’s big news for a girl like me. Going off the trail is not really my style.
A few moments later I make my way around the tree and I’m back on the path. Mocha is still in the thicket sniffing out deer and God knows what else. I stop and notice above my head are red, white, and purple berries. I don’t know if they’re edible and I don’t care because I don’t eat fruit that doesn’t come from the grocery store. They are lovely.
A few steps further the path becomes swampy and my feet are soaking wet. It dawns on me why we are the only ones at the park today.
Still, there is beauty all around me.
We allow things to grow here in the wild that we don’t allow to grow in our yard.
My heart is pumping harder and there is mud on my calves from tromping through the soaked ground. It’s time to follow the path toward the car. I take a deep breath and thank the One who invited me back here to this place today. I thank him for beauty. I thank him for keeping the bullies away. I thank him for helping me around the obstacles on the path and for keeping an eye on me and those I love every single day.
I’m not the woman I was five years ago.
I needed to come back to this place today to experience this beauty from the lover of my soul. The One who knows me best loves me most. It’s good to be loved.
Jesus, thank you for loving us enough to invite us to experience the beauty all around us. Thank you for calling us back to places marked by fear and regret to redeem us and set us free. Thank you for trusting us in these wide open spaces to hear your voice and come running back to your open arms time and time again. You are beautiful, Jesus. We love you.