I woke up from what seemed like a night full of just weird dreams, and that is most often my experience. I began a complaint in my mind: why can’t I just have a joyful dream every once in a while. Instantly, as if in conversation with someone else, I was reminded that I had also had just such a dream and I slipped right back into the full memory of it.
I was back in the area where I grew up, in a house that I never knew, on a front porch looking out over the beginnings of the Appalachian hills and mountains of north Alabama. There was a child on the porch with me and the child’s mother, and it was clear to me that I was to teach the child something. I said to the child: look out on that (pointing to the mountainscape in front of us) and tell me what you see. I had in mind the beauty of the mountains and particularly the beauty of the sky and clouds above them. “Tell me what beauty you see.”
The child responded pointing lower in the landscape: “The Southern Railway.” I looked out, and the child was right (and that was true in the place where I grew up–the Southern Railway traveled parallel to the mountains north and south bisecting several towns along the way which became little train stations). “Yes, so it is. But look higher, I said. What beauty do you see?” The child gazed up and pointed at the blue sky and the beautiful clouds in it. “Yes,” I heard myself saying. “Jesus reveals himself to us in beauty.” I looked into the face of the child, and the child’s eyes made me smile.
I realized, lying there in the dark of early morning, remembering this dream, that there were actually three beauties through which “Jesus was revealing himself.” There was the beauty of the mountainscape. There was the beauty of the child’s fascination with the railway. And there was the face of the child itself. And it became so clear to me that in each of those instances, beauty became the way the gods reveal themselves to us: the beauty of the Earth, the beauty of the things we are drawn to, and the beauty of every human face.
I don’t know what “the gods” mean to you. They don’t have to mean anything. They may mean everything. You may think of God. You may, like my dreaming self, think of Jesus. I also realized that Jesus was the beautiful version of God that I came to know growing up. Now, I think of the gods and goddesses as all of the expressions of that great unifying life and love that really has no name and all names at once. Beauty is that–revealing itself to us.
Notice the beauty giving itself to you, today. In the Earth. In what you are drawn to, and what you see others drawn to. In every face. In every single face. Each instance of beauty is the gods revealing themselves to us.