Recently I found myself surprisingly arrested by beauty.
Shockingly unexpected, it was therefore all the more intensely soul-satisfying.
San Juan Capistrano is one of my most beloved haunts. A historic mission town founded by Father Junipero Serra, it never fails to catch my heart with a sense of connectedness to those who have gone before, those who devoted their lives to laying the spiritual foundation of our nation. I love the crumbling mission church, the bright-swinging bougainvillea, the tiny shops and restaurants.
However, that morning had not started out as one of my brightest moments. Oblivious to the familiar beauty, charging briskly down the sidewalk at a you-don’t-even-want-to-ask-me-about-how-much-I-have-to-do pace, I veered towards the public library. Returns to make, books to check out, used bookstore to scour… the timer in my head was already dinging as my daughter waited in the running car. My body language bristled with one defining message: don’t even think about getting in my way.
Just as I rounded the corner of the building, the pealing began.
Across the street, blazing in the white heat of an August noon, the mission church resonated. High in the tower the bells began to sway, then to clang intensely.
The dissonant melody sang over Capistrano Valley, calling to the faithful that mid-day had arrived.
Dropping my purse, I clutched the near-by street light and just soaked. Magnificent. The music was so heart-catching, so deeply sweet. I could feel my soul begin to shed weight with each resounding hammer of those bells, dropping burdens like needy Pilgrim who had finally reached the wicket gate.
And I just stood, reveling. Soaring.
As the bells began to slow, I savored each swing, willing them to continue.
Sighing deep, I reached down to pick up my purse, reclaiming my list and my responsibilities and my needs. And then I knew.
The beauty of the bells, the unexplainable mystery of metal clanging against metal is just that: a mystery, profound and deep. It’s the unexplainable way God takes the crusty ore of our souls, fires it in the refining vat, hammers it into the shape which He has ordained. And then, as metal strikes metal, we ring.
The beautiful cacophony.
What should only sound with dissonance sings instead with a haunting refrain of eternal glory. Our lives summon those who have ears to hear: Come and die so that you might live. Come and place yourself in the hands of the Master, relinquishing the raw elements of your hardened life so that He might craft them to resound with heavenly song.
Raising my purse to my shoulder, I shifted my burdens to my feet.