we are terribly beautiful

There really is something about driving at night. It stirs up so much thought and emotion that you wonder if it ever would have surfaced had you not hit the road after midnight. There is nothing to look at except for the dark highway, and there is nothing to fill your head except for the spinning thoughts set in motion by the moonlit sky whizzing past your car as it cuts into the silence of the night. Oh, and the music, of course. The music is key. Not only does it make these thoughts spin even faster, but it actually gives a landscape on which to build and whisper dreams. An early A.M. highway accompanied by unforgivingly good music will always loose the anchor in my mind.

Last night, as I drove back from Florida with my mom and brother, I was able to be alone with the highway and the music for a while. With my mom asleep and my brother likely lost in his own thoughts, I was left to the will of my favorite night driving song, “Svo Hljott” by Sigur Ros. I have become aware that this song has a sort of magical quality, as I can still recall the first time I heard it and the emotions it excited within me. Last night was no different.

I have been thinking a lot lately about pain and sadness. As I have spent most of the past several months hovering over that side of the emotional spectrum, I began wondering if these emotions are more vivid than any other. I literally felt like nothing else was real. Any joy I could have had didn’t feel sincere, so I would wander back toward depression and sadness to feel something “real” again. And up until last night, I still wondered if pain was a more vivid feeling than joy. That is until I remembered the heartache that I felt the first time I heard Svo Hljott. I felt it again last night. I don’t know if I could explain it well enough to give it justice, but I think most people know the feeling. Different things cause it for different people. It could be the sound of a song, or the smell of a storm, or the thrill of a road trip, or the touch of a woman. It is an aching deep in the soul, a longing for something when you’re not even sure what it is...or why it is. It is painful. It is something so beautiful that it hurts.

I have come to realize that this pain does not have to be a saddening or depressing pain, but it can be a longing, a restlessness, or a motivation. God uses beauty to stir desire in us. A desire to be what He is calling us to be. And it pains us to see beauty because our sinful nature hinders us from being fully beautiful. When we witness perfection, or anything close to it, we see what we are called to, and it hurts to realize that we will be there someday, but not today.

Now, my problem was not that I stopped experiencing beauty - that’s impossible. If you ever think you aren’t experiencing beauty, just open your eyes. I definitely experienced beauty, I was simply reacting to it the wrong way. When I saw a sunset, or heard a lovely song, or witnessed a person living beautifully, I was pained because I felt like I would never be that sublime. Instead of seeing these things as motivation or as God himself, I saw it as a shortcoming I had. I saw it as a weakness in myself. Instead of eating the world, I was letting it eat me. I was letting gorgeous songs rip out my heart, and beautiful girls tell me I was worthless. All the while, I was being shown what I could be, what I wanted to be, and what I will be.

Pain is still very mysterious to me. There is something about it that cuts straight to the center of my being and opens my eyes to things I would have never seen without it. Things that spin around inside my head waiting for a dark, windswept highway to blow them out into the night air.

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