Dragon Skins and April Beauties (Holy Week at Ithilien House, no.1)

For a man who had never seen before, the simple act of looking at the world around him was clothed in an air of wonder and joy that made something in his neighbors’ hearts ache, though they could not articulate what exactly stirred within. To see the world with new eyes, to be struck by the splendor of the infinite depth of the blue sky for the first time, to have so great a veil of darkness lifted and the splendor of creation unleashed on his senses all at once aroused an elusive jealousy in the hearts of those around him, who, though they saw the same things, no longer saw their excellence. 

– Russ Ramsey, Behold the King of Glory, 103-104.

I’ve been tapping out “quotes, prayers, and gifts” from this year’s Lent. Right above the previous passage about a blind beggar healed by Jesus, I wrote a note to myself:

In terms of practical pathways, it may just be wonder that saves me. 

I’m behind in my reading, but the past few weeks have peeled back layer after layer of the stuff I’m made of. Down beneath the thirsty reach for beauty and peace is a well of selfishness and egotism and fear, and staring at them openly has made me willing to call a spade a spade. Or as Eustace Clarence Scrubb might say, to call a dragon skin a dragon skin.

At the same time, every one of our nearest and dearest friends seems to have a deep prayer need right now. I’ve been fair staggered by both the personal and public news that’s reached us in recent weeks. “So this is how Passion Week begins…” said one.

It’s beginning in anguish.

And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. (Luke 22:44-45, ESV)

Knowing how He shared in our suffering, I want to look for Him in these days. He knows the jagged sharpness of our anguish; let there be wonder at that, O my soul, as much as anything else we might encounter in this holy week of remembrance. If darkness should obscure His face, then let this be a time to reach out and discover with new senses the furrows of kingly solemnity and crags of humble homeliness in the features of our Lord. The laugh lines that speak of holy joy.

Let there be wonder.

It’s as much as a request as it is a resolution, as the sun rises on this Monday morning.

In the past two weeks, He’s brought the first robin couple of Spring to Ithilien House. Lucy and Little Jo watch for them at every meal, and Lucy eagerly points out the traits that distinguish the male from the female. We tiptoe to the glass door, hoping not to frighten them as they skitter with dignified air (only with robins is such a thing possible) through the yard, searching for bugs and seeds. One step too quick on our end, and — they’re off! Flown to the safety of the top of the fence.

Down in the garden, a few days ago, I planted snapdragon seeds. As I sowed and plunged markers into the ground, I kept thinking of Andrew Peterson’s song “The Rain Keeps Falling”:

My daughter and I put the seeds in the dirt
And every day now we’ve been watching the earth
For a sign that this death will give way to a birth
And the rain keeps falling

Can it be? Easter Sunday is on the horizon, and oh, I can’t wait: for our yearly small gathering of friends and new faces, for the children to run over the mulch and turn over rocks, searching for eggs in whatever creative places their daddies have hidden them. And this year, there will be baptisms to celebrate! New life is tumbling over itself and springing up from the seed flats downstairs, and I have dreams of bringing flowers (store-bought) to our neighbors on Saturday. Ask me again when Christmas rolls around, but I think this is my favorite time of the year.

And yet, more than all of the joy that’s to be celebrated by feast and fellowship, I can’t wait to see what He’s going to do with this anguish. For the tomb already stands empty, the veil is rent asunder, and no tragedy can set back the momentum that’s leading to the ultimate unmaking of our sorrows.

Down on the soil where the sorrow is laid
And the secret of life is igniting the grave
And I’m dying to live but I’m learning to wait
And the rain is falling

Peace, be still

May there be wonder and joy in your passage through Holy Week, friends. May there be sunshine to heal your tiredness, surprises that wing your way without asking, and blooms where you least expect to see beauty.

But if, even with the great wonders He’s placed in our way, it should rain hardship:

O God, in mercy let us see how it waters our littler deaths, bringing tendrils of the coming beauty out of the ground to stand out vivid and green over the cracked grave.

~ Amy