I’ve written before of the valleys of my faith, the days that run dark like the depths of caves, the silence that overwhelms, when shame threatens to extinguish hope. The days when I do not want to talk to anyone. The days after I write, the vulnerability hangover, when I’ve thrown my heart to the wild and it’s gone unanswered.
Those are the days when words come easily, they flow like the river of tears I wish would roll down my cheeks. They are the ache of a soul straining for relief, they are the wounds of a life left hidden for too long. They are the echoes that resound when there is nothing left to give, they are the beauty of the broken, they are the maudlin murmurings of the misanthropic.
And yet sometimes they are the easy way out.
Because not all days are sad. Not all require a torrent of words arranged to evoke emotions. Not all days spark passive aggressive pleas for sympathy. Some days are good. Some days are better than good. And sometimes in the midst of draining days comes a glimpse of the other.
As it was on the tube this week. Crammed into the carriage after work, grabbing a few moments to read a few pages, when I realised afresh that God loves me.
More than that, I came to terms – once again – that that is enough. It is not the end of the story, but it is the aria which frames the rest of the story. The key in which life should be lived. God is love, and he loves me.
The words of a book that purported to be comedy had me crying on the tube, not gushing, but unmistakable rivulets escaping the corners of my eyes. They opened up truths in a way I wish I could. What made the words powerful was that they found and portrayed hope, it wasn’t a trite, soundbite, type of hope. It wasn’t aspirational words disconnected from reality. They were words that saw beyond circumstances, words grounded somewhere else.
There are moments when heaven seems close. I stood on the precipice at Sipi Falls near the Uganda-Kenya border and was blown away. I was lost for words, so I said that I was, repeatedly.
This morning my nephew was born, Samuel Josiah Hinks. And I suspect as mother and father held him in their arms the joy and awe could not be surpassed – and only equalled by the birth of their daughter two years before
I went to bed praying last night. I’m not very good at it, I forget, I am self centred, I live as though I can do without. But last night I prayed for my sister and her then yet to be born son. Because life is fragile, and in too many parts of the world child birth is dangerous.
Next week I’ll see Samuel. I’ll hold him in my arms, I’ll feel an echo of what his parents are experiencing today. I am excited.
I want to get to know him. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? What will a week old baby be able to give to a relationship? Nothing but a scrunched up adorable face. Fraser Nelson wrote an astonishing piece on the Spectator website earlier this week. Astonishing because it is the sort of piece that is as rare as it is obvious. He has become a father and he is in love with his daughter and he wanted the world to know about it.
These glimpses of beauty, these refractions of the sublime, they cast light onto our soul.
They show wonder, wonder at the incredible, and the glories of the mundane. Every forty seconds a baby is born in the UK. Eighty times an hour this joy is brought to parents and many more.
That this is normal makes it no less amazing. I am not a father, so I see this from a different angle. But before the sleepless nights, before the tears and the tantrums, before the squabbles as older sister steals his toys, before the toddler becomes a child, before the child goes to school. Before all that is love.
It is simple and it is divine.
And love is what remains, it is what holds so much together which we imagine could not take the strain. Love brings hope in the darkness, joy in the sadness. It is not magical, it is not easy, but it is the thread that does not snap.