When I find out what a teenager’s done, I’d like to ring one slender neck.
Dirt rings the mudroom sink like nasty vandalism. To-do lists keep scrawling ugly, longer and longer. I can’t find my watch. The bathroom mirror is splattered and smudged. The weather forecast makes it impossible to know if we should plant our next field or wait till the next rain or what to do.
We watch the sky for a sign.
We pray, we pray these begging prayers.
I go a whole week not knowing what time it is.
I can’t make sense of anything and this lump in my throat burns.
A high school friend, one who knew the thick glasses and the crush on the Dutch farmboy and the blessed scent of the library stacks, she and I are an impossible twenty years older and we go for a walk.
Everything feels dark and I don’t know how to talk. I listen to her. She has all these questions of her own. I can only nod. We’re walking down a side street in town when I stop. I stop and reach for my camera.
Rachel keeps talking about mortgage rates, about the Gospels and Jesus and speech pathology and the meaning of life and her mind was always been this mushrooming wonder holding me rapt.
I aim the camera at the sidewalk. Fiddle for the shutter. The lens works to focus. And Rachel stops mid-sentence. She reads the words chalked on asphalt out loud, words I’m focusing on.
She reads them slow, like a decoding of everything: “Hey beautiful! You are Loved!”
“Oh.” She says it like an awakening. “Oh — and here I just thought it was graffiti.” I nod in the middle of an epiphany.
The graffiti can be grace. What seems a defacement may be a glimpse of His face. All the writing on the wall could be love notes.
I turn to Rachel, the camera, the capturing, still in hand, and the wind gusts, and I cheer it into the wind, into her — “Hey Beautiful! You are loved!” And she laughs loud and we’re carried and hey, who needs Ryan Gosling and his “Hey Girl” meme when you’ve got God with His “Hey Beautiful” promise?
Everything could make sense and the real mystery of grace is that it always arrives in time. Like the wind, grace finds us wherever we are and won’t leave us however we were found.
I take another picture. So I’ll remember. “This deciphers everything, doesn’t it?”
Love always does.
And the dialect of God is the day just as it comes — and whenever I slow down and shift perspective, it’s possible to read the impossible: the divine language of love written on all the walls. This smiling, startling alphabet of grace…
I can feel it standing right there standing on the sidewalk.
Grace isn’t a mere pollyanna feeling. It’s a force. It’s a powerful force as startling as the power of electricity. Grace is the power of God pulsating with this passionate love of God, this jolting, blazing, dangerous love that pierces all of humanity’s pitch black.
Grace always shocks. Grace always stuns. Grace is always what we need. It’s what everyone groping around lost in the dark has to know: turn towards Grace and you turn on all the lights.
The whole black asphalt at our feet torches with the revelation. And there’s more than enough light to see it —
How the day’s fresh mercies make even here clean enough for all these chalkings of His love.
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