“Be present to mystery,” someone said to me once. In reference to my human need to know what God’s up to in my life and to be in control. But being present to mystery means letting go of all of that and just being present to him. Those words captivate me. The unknown is scary. But God’s mystery is tingling with love and beauty. To be present to it is to be ready to receive him and all the love and beauty that is far, far beyond anything I could possibly imagine or expect. It is to be alert for him. It is to expect beauty.
Those words were spoken to me several years ago but they’ve had new life in them again for me recently, so I’ve been sitting in them.
Recently I went to the ocean. It seems to speak of a different spiritual truth to me every year. This year, what struck me was how the light interacted with the stormy sea. I love the ocean in all its moods, but there is something about a stormy sea that particularly gets me. But when the light breaks through the clouds and catches the water? Something transformative happens. And it spoke to me of my own inner storminess, and what happens when the light of the Holy Spirit interacts with it. It didn’t have to become something it’s not to be beautiful. But it did become something wholly different than a storm in the pitch black. Now there is passion and life and even human volatility united with the light of the Lord. And his light can really have a life there. He meets us wherever we are and makes it beautiful in ways we couldn’t have expected. He transforms it if we only offer it to him exactly as it is.
I had already started this painting, just a woman dancing in the mountains. I wanted to incorporate the light in the storm, to depict her dancing in the love of the Lord in the midst of a moody sky. But as I painted it became something else altogether. The mist took over. And I was blown away by how fitting that was. Because the mist spoke of mystery, and the light piercing through the storm was such a beautiful fruit of being present to mystery. And the way the light came out while I was praying the painting was completely unexpected. The Holy Spirit seemed to be set free in and from the woman’s heart, but also leaving behind a stream of mist that once it passed back through her, took on a touch of herself. And I was left pondering how we’re left free to let him have his own freedom in our lives or not, but when we do let him, he’s released in a particular way in to the world around us and still we’re given a personal place in his action in the world too. If we’re present to mystery. And even as I was painting it I was experiencing it, since being present to his mystery resulted in the painting just flowing from my paintbrush.