The other evening, my middle child ran into the living room clothed only in the bubbles from the bath tub. She was sprinting as quickly as her slick feet would allow on the wood floors. She excitedly ran up to my wife and me and, in her hurried verbal car-crash sort of way, said, “Come- you have to come- Ryann is- Ryann just- Ryann looks crazy.” It was interruption upon interruption upon interruption. I cannot even tell you for sure what she said. But her arms waved and her eyes glinted and she smiled so wide while cocking her head in the most Alethia of ways.
Erin and I smiled at each other. My wife got up to see what the excitement was about. I didn’t need to. I stayed on the couch and smiled at Alee’s latest burst of Alee-ness into another normal day. I stayed to play with my son, who smiles wide and chirps loud and now pulls up to stand all the time even though he hasn’t managed to finish learning how to crawl. Valor looked at me in the way that he does and smiled some more. Always smiling. They’re always smiling. My whole family.
There are hundreds of moments like these that are piling into my days with predictable regularity and unpredictable power. Ryann is a second grader now who is only becoming more loving and lovely. Alethia is blooming into an older expression of the person she has always been. Valor’s first year of life is mostly over. I roll over and wake up next to Erin as I have for almost nine years now. We got married last week and I am suddenly 30.
When you are younger, you believe that you will change the world. You believe this because from 16 to 24, you are growing into your powers as a person and you think you are huge and important. Acceptable progress in life is nothing short of universe-shifting. You aim at impossible targets because, to you in your youthful glory, the world is moving so slowly and you can do anything you want.
But real life makes you grow down smaller and you realize the world is spinning in circles at a speed you could never have predicted. The sun rises and falls in thirty second increments. Years scream by as love envelopes your world. You become accustomed to the pace of life synchronized to other lives.
There comes a moment in everyone’s life when they suddenly realize that they have not done nearly so much as they thought they would. Many people feel that those thoughts of what would be should be used as measuring sticks of what should be. And maybe they should for some people. I don’t know, really.
But what I do know is that life really does go by faster than you could anticipate. The breaths we draw in and squeeze out are apt descriptions of our time together because those times are almost quite literally that fleeting. They are snatches that we have together as time races on. I didn’t know what life would be like when I thought I would change the world. I didn’t even understand what the world really was when I thought those things. I think I may understand even less now.
I do understand, though, that smaller targets must be made. The world is spinning too fast to think that I will personally change it. I don’t have enough time to do all of those things. I just don’t have the time in my ledger. I will traipse across the stage of the world in a moment before my scene is gone. The only thing I can do is cast my lot with the people that I am here to move with.
My wife and children will get more of me than anyone else. And I still worry whether it is enough. Friends will get less. I’m not sure how much of me is left after that. Will it be enough?
As I thought about all of this terrible speed the other morning, I walked out to my deck to enjoy the cool morning and the sun rising into our cove over the mountains. There was enough early-morning weight in the air that the sun peeked over the ridge and its light was diffused through the air. The light became a weighty thing and seemed to fill the space like liquid gold. It was such a simple, quiet, beautiful moment that lasted for just a few minutes, but I caught my breath and thought, “Oh my God. This is beautiful.”
It came out as a prayer like that.
“Oh my God. This is beautiful.”
The unpredictable nature of that beautiful morning moment happens in the smiles of my children and their silly mannerisms all the time. I cannot waste my time worrying whether I am doing enough for the world because the air is filling up with gold and I am too busy trying not to be overwhelmed.
Mostly I cannot. It crashes down on me so hard, wave after wave of goodness so bright and clean that I am pummeled by the weight of the light filling up the air. When Alee sprints in and out and waves her arms, I can’t help but catch my breath and breathe that same prayer:
“Oh my God. It’s so beautiful.”
For all the darkness floating through our lives, the fracturing and the sorrow and the worry and the fear, the rain still falls on the just and the unjust. The flowers bloom and the birds have their fill and the kids keep sprinting out into the showers to dance and scream and be silly. The crawler will be the walker will be the next little silly one. The sun will set and erupt into orange and pink and the light will catch my eyes just as darkness was trying to cloud them over into hopelessness and “Oh my God. It’s all so beautiful.”
The sun is roaring across the heavens and age is falling steadily on my shoulders. I am leaving heartbeats behind that I can never have again. Sometimes life is incomprehensibly heavy. But there are so many times when life gives us glimpses of what life was meant to be. I am pricked again in the underside of my soul, left shaking away the fuzziness to see once again that glory is diffuse and pervasive and undeniable. Sometimes I wonder if this is what Peter means when he says this world was meant for consumption. I nod my head to that thought and think it must be so. That is the fire this world was meant for. The fire of beauty arching over the horizon and uniting everything under its cover. The glory of that thought is packed into the whimsy of my children, the slow movement of the sun into the cove.
The sun falls swiftly but its flight is showing us where we’re going. It is so good that it can crush your heart if you look too closely. The boring moments fade into the void in the light of the gold falling from the skies. The simple pleasure of moments you cannot even properly describe or capture on film or paper deposit in you a wealth that you cannot buy. I can’t help but hear the message carried along in the cumulative weight of all those moments:
This world was made for good. This world was made for glory.
And oh, my God. It’s beautiful.