How lovely are you.
“Be watchful—the grace of God appears suddenly. It comes without warning to an open heart. Sweep out the stable of your existence and the King will gladly enter.”
I’m sitting cross-legged on my couch. It’s this past Saturday morning, around 8 a.m.
I take a deep breath in. Let a deep breath out. I close my eyes, then breathe in, then out. I find a still place in the center of myself where I know God lives.
Thinking of this still place inside of me, I turn my eyes to the right, where sits a used copy of Joyce Rupp’s The Cup of Our Life that arrived a few days ago. On the cover is the drawing of a cup held between two hands. I pick up the book. Read the first few pages again — the story of Joyce’s encounter of cup as spiritual metaphor.
I set the book down and return to that still place. Eyes closed. Breathing in. Breathing out. The image of a cup in the center of my being, filled with God.
A few moments later, overcome with stories of my life, seen as a panorama, I get up off the couch. Walk over to my desk. Pull my vintage typewriter off the small side chair and onto the surface of the desk. I sit down and scroll a sheet of paper into its feed.
I reach for my earbuds, folded up in the corner of my desk. I untangle them. Plug them into my iPhone and place them in my ears. Pull up the music app and scroll to Eustace the Dragon, then tap “White as Snow” and make sure it’s set to play on repeat.
Turning my attention to the typewriter, I type the date. Hit return. Then indent. Start typing the first paragraph of the panoramic view I saw inside my head.
After one paragraph typed, I stop. Cross my arms, folded, on the desk and listen to the song playing on repeat in my ears. Eyes closed.
I become aware of his presence. Jesus. He’s just behind my shoulder.
I’m inside my memory — that memory, the one that feels like running full-out into a thick black wall and then wrenching myself away, black and blue, bruised.
And there Jesus is. Right behind my shoulder in that memory.
Inside the memory, I turn my head back a bit to look at him. The memory is still happening, like a video playing inside my mind, every moment of it happening right there in front of me — in front of us — and what I notice is him.
This. This is my moment of deepest shame and humiliation. This. Right here.
And there Jesus is, with me. Calm. Strong. Radiating peace.
The first thing I notice is his presence with me. Solid. Fully there and attentive. With-ness.
The next thing I notice is that while he is fully present to me and my consciousness of him, he is also fully aware of what is happening inside that memory. He sees it happening, and he doesn’t flinch.
He sees it happening. And he doesn’t flinch.
What grace washes over me. In the moment of my deepest shame and humiliation, he sees it and doesn’t flinch. He sees it and doesn’t flinch.
For the first time in 19 years, I see it, too, and do not flinch.
It’s a miracle. Happening inside me and before my very eyes.
I become aware of the truth: Who I am, the reality of me in the eyes of Jesus, is deeper than this memory. I am more than this moment of shame.
This? This is healing.
This? I’m reminded of what I’ve learned so viscerally before: This is how forgiveness becomes possible.
And I realize in that moment that if I can find this truth in the place of my deepest shame, then so can others. Hope floods me.
This is not the first time I have experienced Jesus with me inside my memories. It is not the first time he has healed me in such a way.
At other times, I have asked him the question we all long to ask: Why did you let this happen? You were there. Why didn’t you intervene? Sometimes I’ve asked this question in anger. In hurt.
He has always answered.
The answers, too, are a healing.
I notice that I don’t feel angry this time, seeing him there with me, not moving to stop the events. The feeling of his presence was so strong and peaceful and full of his attentiveness to me that I could feel no anger. Only gratitude.
I did ask the question, though. Quietly.
I don’t know if he’s done answering the question yet — why he let it happen, why he didn’t intervene, why he allowed aspects of my story to collect the way they did. But here’s one impression I had that is feeling very true: If that memory happened for the sole reason that I would land here, experiencing the potent presence of Jesus in the way I did right then, that maybe is enough.
He is my greatest treasure. He is the most beautiful one of all.
“How lovely … how lovely are you.
“How lovely … how lovely your voice, your face.”
—Eustace the Dragon, “A Song for Sparrows”