If you have met my friend Diana Trautwein, who blogs at DRGT/Just Wondering, then you know you’re in for a treat. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, then I encourage you to scoot right over to her place as soon as you’re done reading what she’s shared here.
With no further ado…Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere’s Diana!
When I was in high school and college, my mother gave me the great gift of sharing her favorite writers with me. One of those was Elizabeth Goudge, a British woman who wrote evocatively of the deep spiritual truths that underlie all of what we do and see, all of who we are as human creatures residing on planet earth. She had suffered in her own life, suffered with depression and recurring bouts of despair, suffered with loneliness and with fear. Yet through it all, she discovered the wonderful truth that the God who made her, who designed her to be who she was – this God was palpably near her, even in the lowest of the lows.
I recently re-read one of my favorite novels from those years. It’s called The Scent of Water, and it tells the story of a mid-life, single businesswoman who suddenly inherits a country house from a cousin she met only once. Almost as an act of obedience, sophisticated, intelligent mid-20th-century Mary Lindsay decides to chuck her London life and move to a small country village. The people she meets – both past and present – and the things she learns about herself, all draw her into an awareness of God’s presence, perhaps for the first time in her life. It’s a beautiful story of conversion, deep, true conversion. And it is the discovery and the experience of beauty – in the people, situations, geography and spirit of this place – that bring her to it.
I first read this book almost 50 years ago. As I re-read it this week, I was struck by how closely interwoven its themes are with just about every important thing I have learned since then:
- there is so much more to life than increasing its speed
- God shows up in all kinds of people and situations, not just the ones I somehow decide are ‘suitable’
- human beings are connected to one another across time and space in ways I cannot even begin to understand
- sometimes sitting still is the best of all possible options
- the glory of God shines forth from your own backyard
- the very best thing to ask God to give? “eyes to see and ears to hear”
- compassion grows strongest in the soil of suffering
- gratitude is the only possible response to the gift that is life
Mary Lindsay learns all of these things by opening herself to the beauty that was available to her right where she lived. Making that choice – to lift her eyes and look – changed her forever. And it has changed me, too. Even the hard and ugly parts of life become suffused with possibility when viewed through this lens. It’s a choice I need to make every single day, and I want to make it. I want to choose to be open to the miracle.
What about you?
“…and gradually, she became aware of miracle. Through the west window beside her the sunset shone into the room, through the flowers of the blossoming apple tree that grew close to the window…Time not so much passed as was lost, and with it her sense of possessing herself, yet she felt no sense of loss, for in the center of perfection there is nothing wanting. Circle upon circle of unknown, invisible and terrible beauty stretched from her into infinity and yet it was all here in what now held her and filled her. She was in a state of happy shame. She guessed that many restless men had been driven to the ends of the earth to find this – what should she call it? – this golden heart, yet it was hers in this miracle of light. Why should she among millions of women, some of whom toiled in great cities or rotted in refugee camps, be given this? She knew her worldliness and lovelessness. Why she? It was one of the unanswerable questions and there was nothing she could do about it except be thankful.”
– Elizabeth Goudge in The Scent of Water, 1963