One of my favorite authors is Frederic Buechner. I still remember when I read his work for the first time. I was fresh out of college, living in Nashville. I was battered by grief and felt needy and frightened and terribly alone. God felt as distant as He ever had. Every Sunday I sat in a church pew and thought “This must be the worst of it. It can’t hurt any more than this.”
But it could. And it did.
In the midst of that season, a new friend told me I should read Buechner’s book “Telling Secrets.” It was a slim volume, and I read it in one evening. It was a book that would forever change the course of my life. In it, Buechner told the story, the secrets, of his family. In his tragedy, I found hope. A pinpoint of light that told me that this current darkness was not the end of my story.
One of the things I love most about Buechner is his honesty. His ability to say how tragic the world is — yet in the next breath, how wonderful it is. That’s why I love this line from his book “Beyond Words” — Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.
This morning at breakfast I sat in a booth next to my boyfriend. It’s still strange for me to say that word. Boyfriend. But that’s what he is. He became part of my world a few months ago, and already I am learning to be more intentional, more thoughtful, more vulnerable. There have been so many times I’ve wanted to shield “us” from the world. Times when our relationship felt like a flickering candle, and I didn’t want it to go out. But holding his hand this morning, sharing stories and making memories and laughing together, I felt filled with the knowledge that, here is the world. Ready to be lived.
And, yes. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. He and I have both dealt with our own share of triumphs and tragedies. They have shaped us as individuals. Our scars and victories have made us who we are. And I know that within our relationship, there will be beauty and terror. Misunderstandings and clarity. Mountains and valleys. Because, like any relationship, from mothers and daughters to best friends to couples, we are flawed, broken humans. But we are also children of the Father. Made in His likeness. Filled with His light. Beautiful and terrible things.
If I’m honest, it’s the “do not be afraid” that I find the hardest. I believe that beautiful and terrible things happen. But I’m trying to learn how to enjoy the moments of beautiful without clouding them with fear of the terrible.
To take pleasure in holding hands without fear of letting go. To enjoy a whispered compliment without listening to the doubts.
I’m trying to remember that, here is the world. Created and full of miracles and tragedies.
Beautiful things will happen. Love and smiles and kindness and grace.
Terrible things will happen. Death and loss and tears and brokenness.
Sometimes the beauty overwhelms. The terrible surrounds. A wave that bears you up suddenly drowns you. But through it all.
Do not be afraid.