Has your heart ever felt like breaking after seeing something so beautiful? Have you ever seen something and said to yourself, This is almost too beautiful, it can’t be true, it must be little more than a tease? We can find ourselves in these moments, knowing that they cannot last forever, almost becoming bitter over the fact that even this beauty too shall pass. Hey, I’m ok with the tough moments, the challenges, the temptations passing on. Yes, Lord, let those pass. But then our hearts can almost want to leap out of our chests when we come across the Beautiful, knowing that, yes, unfortunately, even this too shall pass.
But there is a great joy in this too, is there not? After all, the giants of our faith who have gone before us have been attuned to this, have felt this same anguish. C.S. Lewis, I think it was, exclaimed that the very fact that our hearts yearn for more than this world can offer means that we have been loved into being for something more than what we see. St. Augustine whispers to our same stretched hearts that we have been made for God, and those hearts are restless until they rest in God. St. John Paul II, with the weight of the Church’s desire for our happiness and fulfillment behind his words, spoke of how it is the face of Christ we seek in whatever we desire. When we seek the Beautiful, the Good, and the True, God has put into our hearts a need for him, and when we realize that, all others things can, in a way, break our hearts.
As long as we hold onto this desire for God, or at the very least, a desire to desire God, nothing will come from our hearts but thankfulness. But there is a temptation here. A very dangerous temptation.
Just this last week, I found myself on a spur of the moment jaunt up to Santa Barbara for my day off. Coming from the desert, the mountains that spill into the sea were more than a welcome feeling under my feet. Lunch on the pier catching up with good friends within sight of one of California’s legendary surf spots was refreshing enough to make me feel just fine not having actually surfed it (the me of 6 years ago would have baulked at that sentiment). But as I was walking down that pier, transfixed by the harbor and the mountains and the stretching sands of the beach, boy, that temptation against being thankful started to creep in.
I wanted this. I wanted to stay. But I wanted to leave. I kept thinking, it was a bad idea to come here, to take this all in, knowing that I just have to leave in a few hours anyway. It was almost too beautiful, to refreshing. And I couldn’t grasp it, hold onto it, possess it, make it my own. My selfishness, my desire to choose just where I wanted to be, my unwillingness to be thankful for such a short-lived gift, tried to creep in and ruin the day.
But it would not last, thanks be to God. The constant reminder that “everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:4), fought that quick feeling of despair. How sad that would have been! To come away to a most beautiful place like Santa Barbara, only to be ungrateful because I could not control it, because it was to be fleeting as well.
We can’t let this happen in our lives, in our friendships, in our ministries, in our relationships with our families and with God. The devil wants to blind us to the gifts we are receiving, to feel like they are not good enough, that others are receiving more without deserving it, to feel like God is playing a cruel joke by blessing us one day and cursing us the next. Do not listen to these lies! Our God is not a fickle God who messes with us by granting us our hearts’ desires one day, and then, waking up on the wrong side of bed the next, steals away all our joy just for the fun of it. Our God is a God who does not play games, but One whose love has come before us and will last into eternity. It is up to our hearts, which desire more than this world can give, to discern, to seek that love even in the most fleeting of blessings.