Last year I was in a painting class taught by a retiring professor. He was a refreshing soul who always insisted that his students stretch their Faith as much as they do their Art. I’d paint trees upside down and he’d go on about universalism. I learned a lot of life lessons from this man, but maybe the most significant came on a somber day in May; One of his last days of teaching. We sat in chairs around him, ready to soak in whatever wisdom he had left. Looking around the room, he said he’d be reading a poem today. One that spoke to the deepest longing in his heart.
It was copied down on a folded and crinkled paper, a condition that suggested he carried it around like a small companion. He flattened it out with his palms and sighed deeply at the sight of it.
It’s called “God’s Justice” by Anne Carson.
In the beginning there were days set aside for various tasks.
On the day He was to create justice
God got involved in making a dragonfly
and lost track of time.
It was about two inches long
with turquoise dots all down its back like Lauren Bacall.
God watched it bend its tiny wire elbows
as it set about cleaning the transparent case of its head.
The eye globes mounted on the case
rotated this way and that
as it polished every angle.
Inside the case
which was glassy black like the windows of a downtown bank
God could see the machinery humming
and He watched the hum
travel all the way down turquoise dots to the end of the tail
and breathe off as light.
Its black wings vibrated in and out.
He wept buckets the whole way through. Warmth and sobriety wafted through us watching him break into pieces. His glassy eyes were of a true artist. His restless heart was one grasping for gorgeous grace. Soon enough, everyone broke and we became basket cases together. He looked up, speaking in a voice that whimpered before such beauty.
“Don’t you hope that’s true? That He loses track of time? Even on the small things? That beauty stops God in his boots?”
During that hour, my professor captured something that could’ve gone lost on me. I don’t know if it was the tremble in his voice or his tears or the power of the poem, but I was overwhelmed by the comeliness of it all. I wanted to travel wherever he had gone. I needed to hear the God that whistles and sings.
The God getting lost in the little things.
The little girl humming with glee by the magic in her fingertips.
The artist sitting cross-legged on a grassy knoll, playfully blending colors and discovering new shapes and patterns. Staying until it is exactly what it is. What it’s suppose to be. Something beautiful that belongs to him.
The Creator that lets winter have its moment, with all of its dark and twisted glory. The God letting the trees and the tulips sleep awhile longer. The God that keeps us on our toes at the first sight of green and the first calls of loons coming home. Who fastens a new appreciation in us. And instills us with empathy for when we too go dormant.
The Father that brings us into bloom when we’re raring to go.
I forget the cold. I forget the tyrant on the throne, barking orders, picking and choosing who among us means more to him. The omni-everything so obsessed with power and so bankrupt on bliss. The king tied and bound down to theology and politics and manners. The High Priest slapping the back of my head every time I chew gum in Church.
I lose myself in a daydream of a child building dragonflies, glassy eyed and enchanted by the hues of blue and the boldness of red and the life in the green. The one bending into shape those wiry elbows. God getting carried away with making those eyes, the windows into the soul, perfect…
That’s enough to crack the ice off my soul. It blows out the cobwebs and reminds me that I am another creation after the dragonfly. I am formed and fawned over and caressed and molded by the sincerest of hands.
The artist that made the Pacific so cerulean and the Redwood forest so majestic and Everest reach higher than our breath will allow, is the same one that stretched the wings of the dragonfly and made me from scratch.
Calling it all “good”