Photo by Brent Ninaber on Unsplash
You know what it’s like to listen to a new piece of music where there’s dissonance and crashing, and you think “I’m not enjoying this. Where’s the fast-forward?”
Sometimes I go to the next piece on the playlist, but sometimes the crashing is happening in a favorite piece like Beethoven’s Ninth, or Dvorak’s New World Symphony and I know I have to ride out the harsh parts until they resolve again and go back to the strong, secure lines I love so much. I can endure the crashing and screeching places, the lines where I’m tempted to click “fast forward” because I know there’s a symphony going on here–something big and glorious and well-designed and it’s not going to keep crashing for the next hour.
These last months, I keep thinking the same thing about life and me and the world in general: there’s something bigger going on here. Let me hold still and breathe deep and wait out this crashing and banging because it’s going to come to something.
When I sit at the east window every morning, the sun rises further south every day, marking a smaller arc. Sunlight is scarce, weaker than it was two months ago, and I want to cry about the gray days. Right now the sun looks like it’s fading away to the edge of the horizon forever. But there’s something bigger going on. Spring is coming even though it’s six months away. This is seasons, and orbits, and summer comes again.
Animal babies become independent of their parents within a year of being born. But human babies die if no one sees after their needs for years. I cuddle a baby and wonder what God is up to in this little bundle of cuteness and helplessness. There’s something bigger going on here for their moms and dads–bigger than the sleep deprivation, illnesses, total dependence.
In relationships, one person deeply disappoints another, erodes trust. They limp toward forgiveness, slipping and sliding, lurching. There’s a bigger story arcing above them, another plot line they’re part of. If we could see the story line, the myriad intersections, the spiritual armies fighting, it would take our breath away.
I hear of accidents, crushing disappointments, crises that keep mounting and piling up, layer on layer of percussion and brass rising to shrill chaos, and will the crashing ever end? The Sunday school answer says that in the sweet by and by, everything will be ok, but I don’t want to wait that long.
The good Sunday school girl folds her hands and quotes Romans 8:28 primly but do I?
I howl around and panic and hyperventilate over everything that shouldn’t be this way and I simmer and fume and complain and look for a fast-forward button to pound.
But I’m trying really hard to learn to quiet down, step back, and look for something bigger happening over the din and the wrong.
What’s God up to here?
What’s the metanarrative, the story line arcing over this current heartbreak?
Where are the grace notes in the chaos?
If God’s doing something bigger here, how could I join Him in it? Instead of fighting it?
In any piece of art, zoom in far enough, see just a quarter inch of the colors and lines or hear just two measures of a line or read two lines from a story, and it looks like chaos, nonsense, accident. But there’s something bigger going on.
I think we’re not big enough to always know what the bigger piece of art looks like. Time limits us and space cramps us, and we are too small to see the end, the arc of the plot, hear the soothing cadence of the aria that’s coming.
Zoom out, sit still with the crashing rhythms and shades, trust the artist to put to rights what looks chaotic right now.
This is what I tell myself, what I believe deep in my heart is the truest reality even though I hate the current noise. This is not all there is, not all there will be.
Faith declares that what is not yet seen or heard is still true.
Love knows the artist’s heart is absolutely committed to goodness and beauty.
This is all I know, and for now, in the middle of the symphony, it’s enough.