Running with the wind in my face, sun streaming down unseasonably warm for a February day in Mississippi, I was panting along the second half of my run. I hate uphill climbs. Seriously. Hate. Them. I’m already tired, and now I have to chug uphill? Just bring me a couch and a magazine, please. But this time, I happened to look up as I was huffing along and noticed the wind chasing the clouds through the blue sky, bending the tops of the pine trees with its force. Such a different view from the gray asphalt and the laces of my shoes. It was beautiful really. Powerful, unstoppable – and beautiful.
I’m not typically super reflective on my runs. I usually have a million things running through my head in that 30 minutes…most of them not very profound. “So-and-so finally mowed their yard.” “What was that noise?! Oh, just a squirrel.” “I need to pick up some peanut butter at the store.” “I wonder if she’s mad at me because I forgot to text her back?” (You know you’ve thought that…at least if you’re female. Apparently guys don’t read as much between the lines of texts as we ladies do).
But those random thoughts had stilled for a moment as I planted one foot in front of the other up that climb. Running uphill forced not just my feet, but my gaze upwards. I wouldn’t have noticed any of that if I’d been staring down at my shoelaces, focusing only on placing one foot in front of the other. The process that was so difficult, that I’d spent energy hating just moments before, was now the process that was pulling my attention outside of myself and onto the beauty around me.
So often in life, I get so focused on that durn climb. On trying to catch my breath. On how much my legs are screaming at me. The drama in that relationship that I’m just. OVER. The million things on my to-do list that simply must be done today or the world will fall apart (really?). The disappointment that God hasn’t come through for me the way I thought He would. I focus all my energies on how much I really hate this situation, all the while, forgetting to look up and see that, yes, blue skies, puffy clouds and dancing pine trees are still there. There are still monuments to Beauty, even in uphill situations. My desperate attempts to look down and focus on my own problems doesn’t erase their existence. They not only exist, they dance.
Beauty draws us out of ourselves. That uphill climb, that drama, that to-do list, that disappointment? That can draw our gaze up to the Author of beauty if we let it. We find a hurting person seeking answers in the midst of the relationship-drama. What looks like an interruption in the to-do list is actually an opportunity to be His hands and feet to someone who needed a phone-chat. The disappointment can bring us to our knees to find the Christ-Man holding our broken hearts in His own scarred hands. If we stop our navel-gazing and look up through the situation, we find that He’s still there. His created order of things still stands. And it is beautiful, no matter what our situation might look like.
That’s enough to keep me chugging through those uphill climbs.