It is painfully beautiful to be alive.
I’ve experienced the piercing blade of beauty. It makes you wince and feel more alive all at once. The delicate blanket of fog that covers the lake nestled amidst the Swiss Alps. A sunrise view atop a radio tower on a mountain in Austria. Glorious fields of grain stretching to the horizon. The crinkled eyes of a loved one when they are smiling. Late nights spent talking with a friend you haven’t seen for too long. In these moments, the beauty strikes our hearts and it is easy to see, take in, and embrace the glories of being alive.
Sometimes the emphasis seems to fall more on the side of pain as opposed to beauty. Yet in most moments (I’m not certain if I can argue for all moments yet), one can find beauty in the pain, if one is willing to look for it.
The beauty found in the pain of: waking up early for work, a morning run with a dear friend when talking takes far too much effort, a heart overflowing with all sorts of emotions, and speaking difficult words that later bring peace.
And then there are the moments where life seems to blindside you, where the pain is evident but the beauty is masked.
A young person I barely knew recently died. I guess I am uncertain what type of response I expected to have. My heart ached and a heaviness filled it. At one point, as captive tears broke free, I wondered if this is what it means to have a mature heart, one that can feel pain even when the tragedy doesn’t really change one’s life. The pain didn’t just last for a few moments but seemed to linger, clouding my thoughts and casting a pallor over the next couple days.
It was uncertain how he died, but I kept imagining the different scenarios I was told. At Mass on Saturday, I couldn’t help it. My brain insisted on replaying the possible options, my heart aching with each dramatic death I imagined. I hoped that maybe I would be able to speak to my spiritual director about it and gain his perspective. Then I realized that I already knew what he would say to me.
He would ask, “Where is Jesus in it?”
So I tried it. “Where is Jesus in this tragedy?” I replayed the awful images but inserted Jesus into the mental video. There He was–walking right beside the boy, tears coursing down His face, gently whispering his name. It was a painfully beautiful experience as I watched Him carry him. Soon I was including a guardian angel and the Blessed Mother into the picture. It was transforming the scene. The tragedy was still there, but the beautiful pain was making an appearance.
This truth that I had learned before was once again re-impressed on my heart: Christ never leaves us. Regardless of what we do, how far we try to run, or what we tangibly experience, Jesus is always present, gently whispering our names, and desiring to enter into the wounds we try so hard to fill with insufficient medicine.
Throughout life, none of us walks or falls or lives alone. Christ is always there in the midst. And that is what makes life painfully beautiful.
“There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us.” -St. John Paul the Great