Sunday, October 18, 2009

Seeing the Face of God

Having moved from the mid-west to the mid-Atlantic, we can hardly believe the amount of rain we get here. My husband, a lover of all weather, is in his element, but the other day as my husband left for work, my 4 year-old daughter declared that "there was nothing beautiful in the rain." I tried to explain to her the goodness of the rain for the earth and the beauty it brought but she wasn't buying it. So I decided some things just couldn't be argued, they had to be shown. Despite a long to-do list, a mountain of laundry, school lessons to begin, I bundled everyone in the car and headed to one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood to search for beauty, even in the rain.

I was not sure what we would find, how hard it might rain, what would happen to the rest of our day, if my plan would work...but it seemed an important lesson for her. The problem was I was not quite sure what the lesson was myself.

I have just finished Olive Kitteridge, the lovely yet sad 2009 Pulitzer-prize winning book, that conveys a world of brokenness where even religion cannot bring comfort: "Hell. We're always alone. Born alone. Die alone" Olive says.  Despite their loneliness and pain, the characters eke out for themselves small moments of love, meaning.  The book was powerful, leaving me with a "book hangover" for days. I found it hard to shake its despair couched in lines of beauty. And when I despair for the world around me, I'm always led to a fear for what my children's lives will become.

I have found a world "charged with the grandeur of God" as Hopkins writes, but what if my children don't see it? What if somehow I cannot communicate or reveal to them who God is in a world "seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil," a world that "wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell."

We got stuck in a long line of traffic...the sear of trade and toil...A car cut us off as the lanes merged into's smudge...the road was littered with ugly storefronts and trash waiting to be collected...ahh, man's smell... the winds howled, I became afraid. What was I doing trying to show them beauty in all of this?  Should we just go home?

And then from the back row of the mini-van, filled with food crumbs, straw wrappers, old books, discarded socks, a spare diaper or two, I heard my daughter gasp in awe and seriousness:

"Mommy, I just saw the face of God in the clouds..."

I, of course, do not know what she saw. But I know she found more than beauty. Small-minded, I was hoping for some lovely mud puddles, perhaps some rain dripping from leaves. She saw God. Ahhh, yes, Mr. Hopkins, you knew so well, that even at the brown brink of a morning, "the Holy Ghost over the bent world broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings."

 Upon our eventual arrival to our nature study spot, the clouds parted.

Delighting in their freedom and ability, they ran with abandon,

the beauty of raindrops still sitting on the blades of grass,


stillness after the storm.


Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Wow. I'm glad you were able to do this! I bet your daughter will remember the lesson.

Jennifer said...

Lovely writing...I always love the blue sky after the rain! 4 days of rain is ENOUGH!

Jessica said...

I love that Hopkins poem.


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