Recently here in Switzerland, I stumbled upon one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed. Vibrant pinks, oranges, and reds shrouded the alps in majestic wonder as light danced on the clear water and through the bare trees. It just kept getting more breathtaking; the colors slowly overtaking the whole sky. I wondered how can something be so captivatingly beautiful? Words and pictures will never do the scene justice, but it is forever etched on my heart.
There is nothing quite like a sunset. I have been privileged to witness quite a few spectacular scenes in my life. There was the time I chased the sun on the Blue Ridge Parkway with my fellow “Wilderness Explorers”. A mad dash running after the wonder like we were hungry, ravenous wolves. Or when I saw the sunset over the mountains on the Ugandan plain in Kidepo Valley National Park. Water buffalo, zebras, and elephants roamed as brilliant light played all around them. They one with the earth in such a peace, that a calm still comes over me when I recall the scene. Or as I sat many evenings laughing with friends on rooftops in Uganda as colors revealed themselves setting the whole sky ablaze. There I built bonds that will forever strengthen my heart through the miles and years of this, at times, hard and terrible life. I have witnessed pure awe and wonder.
When I witness this real and raw wonder, I am blown away by how creative and magnificent our God is. A God who delights in beauty and considers nothing too small to display His vast power. He didn’t have to make the sun shine so brilliantly. He didn’t have to make flowers, whose lifespan is minuscule, so beautiful. He didn’t have to create stars that radiate bright beams of light…but He did. Every time I see that sacred sun, I am reminded of His creativity, of His desire for delight in beautiful things, of the slow and steady rhythms He breathed into everything.
Then there is the one sunset I try to forget. I hold on to a picture from that night, the night my grandmother died. We had just visited and realized that after an excruciating year, this was the moment. Still though we expected it, we somehow never saw that moment coming. In a circle full of held hands and streaming tears, we prayed over her, releasing her to the Lord that evening. The last time we would see the woman who breathed her life breathe into each of us. The only fleshly evidence on this earth left that she had lived…her ebenezer stones. We walked out the door knowing that when we walked back in she would be gone, an empty hospital bed would be all that remained of that tragic scene. I can still see it all so vividly.
My sister and I laid in her bed that evening distracting ourselves with Netflix’s trying to talk and laugh. Her first real battle with grief was on the horizon. This wasn’t mine, but I somehow knew I was wholly unprepared for the wake of that loss.
Suddenly, she sat up and said, “Let’s go! Where is the sun? We have to chase it.” Looking outside, seeing the inklings of a beautiful sunset, we started to run. In moments we were surrounded by colors dancing all around us. The sky turned yellow, then orange, then pink, then vibrant red.
In the photograph my sister took that day, as the brilliant colors dance around me there’s a smile on my face, but my eyes say something different. They are hollowed out by the many losses of that year. Eyes that have watched someone they love dearly waste away slowly, wondering how could the Lord allow a life to end like this. Eyes that have seen the death and loss and pain of this world yet again. Eyes that are growing weary as they watched someone walk out the door of their life so easily and thought, “If only I had felt so little for them, it would have been that easy for me too.” I don’t know if you ever truly get over the realization that your soul was someone else’s playground. A vessel they used to fill themselves up. Pain like that shatters hearts and causes deep scars. My eyes in that photo know that pain.
But there is also the sun in that photo, shining brilliantly. I could have cursed its beauty that night, even as I marveled at its wonder. Thinking how do we live in a world where wonder like that exists while someone lays gasping for breath as they die slowly. But yet, that sun still rose and set that day. That sun that had been there since God spoke it into creation. After all, it existed before any life on this earth.
I think it says a lot about the Lord in that He created light first, then all the beauty of this earth before He created man. Maybe He knew we would need it to get us through this life that at times is full of great pain and suffering. He knew we needed to delight in the beautiful things; that we needed to chase the light.
Because while I could have cursed the sun that day, for a moment I was still captivated by its brilliance and reminded of those steady rhythms of life our Creator gave. Reminded of the beauty He so thoughtfully breathed into everything around us, unfolding before our very eyes. Reminded that life is bigger than me, and that my existence spans beyond my skin and bones. That yes there is pain, but there is still immense joy. Because if He took time to make the sun so painstakingly beautiful and clothed the lilies of the field even though they die in an instant; then how much more did He breathe into us, the only creatures made in His image.
To love is the most beautiful, yet painful thing on this earth. The sad beauty of any love in this life is: it all ends in death. Whether among the living or the dead we are bound to finite bodies. We come to an end, (even though our love does not). People will eventually leave us whether they choose to or are taken from us. But to experience love and all its wonder is to get a glimpse of the heart of God. To know a little more of His character. The price we pay of a piece of our souls is worth the immense beauty that comes with knowing someone deeply and wholly. It is worth the mere glimpse we get of God. We are profoundly changed by the love we experience and are never quite the same.
The rising and setting of the sun reminds us of this incomprehensible love. Of the true and steady rhythms of our Savior and our God. Reminds us that He is still here, working, and healing, and creating wonder and miracles in the land of living. So we continue to chase the sun…we press forward, hard after its brilliant, dancing, ever-changing wonder and light, knowing we are held and whole in the hands who spoke it into existence…In the God who still paints for us.
Kuc obed kedi sweet friends. May you come to know our Jehovah Rapha through the warm and healing rays He paints for you. May you stop and bask in His glory and wonder. And may that glorious light pierce your soul.