Clarity in Sunsets

Too early for an appointment, I sat in my car stalling on my phone. I had been trying to pray but my focus was lacking and the words were not coming. So I set my sights on the next best thing…. Pinterest. More specifically, the perfect quote on “clarity”. If I couldn’t find the words, someone out there surely must have already said them. I needed the  precise words that would give me my next move. What was I supposed to do now?

But the phone and social media were failing me. The only thing they did was make my mind more hazy.

I happened to look up when I heard the horn of car whizzing by. The sky was undeniably putting on a show. I made myself stare. I had to fight the knee jerk reaction to look at my phone, to take a picture. Truthfully, the only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t have the best angle. It wouldn’t have been the greatest of shots. I was sort of behind a building and couldn’t get a full on view of the sky.


I thought about the time I saw Phantom of the Opera in the same way, somewhat blocked. I had gone to see this while I was in London with a study abroad program. I had gone by myself  to the show and, quite frankly, I felt cool because of it.  On my own in that theater I stepped into some sort of worldly, grown up. The woman I wanted to be. I walked with my head high, a new airy strut. “Here I am London theater going fancy people. Look at me. How cool am I?!”

Then I was seated behind a pillar. Perfect scenario to quickly remind me of my college aged butt that had granola for dinner, was carrying a backpack, and got exactly what seat I had been able to afford. There was a leaning over and a twisting of my neck required in order to see the performance. I sunk into my seat embarrassed at my quick to think I was cool self. How annoying. My inner temper tantrum tried to grab hold of me.

However, the greater reality was literally surrounding me. The fancy seat, the english accent speaking ladies and gents around me, the music……the loud gorgeous music.  I was seeing Phantom, in London, by myself, and that was just way too fabulous for any sort of kicking and screaming. Gratitude and little kid giddiness soon took over and the pillar seemed to fade away. The talent on that stage, the beauty of the music….it was be felt more than seen. No pillar could block it from hitting my heart.


I remembered my Phantom experience when annoyance at the building blocking the sunset crept in. I wanted to see the WHOLE thing it all it’s grandness. However, that would require me getting out of my warm car and walking, in the bitter cold, around the building onto a busy street. I opted to stay put. The longer I sat there, the more I was stunned by the vastness of the view I did have. Both sides of the structure I sat behind were completely lit up. The noise of the rush hour that congested and flowed with each light change at the nearest interction, seemed to slowly evaporate into the background.  Life was busily happening around me. Distractions everywhere. Yet the sky, just did it’s thing.


I started to wonder how many other people were having a moment with the heavens at the same time, immediately feeling connected to a community of awe seekers. I wondered what they were doing. What they were thinking. If they were taking pictures to post. If they pulled over to the side of the road to take it all in. If they called someone over to see what they saw and enjoyed the show in company or if they, like me, were taking it all very personally.


I also wondered if they, too, had to fight the urge to look away. Was I alone in this inner battle with beauty?


I once was lucky enough to drive cross-country. I remember standing at Bryce Canyon. It is hard to put into words the view I had. God seriously has a magnificently quirky, never ceasing to surprise and amaze, artistry. Bryce canyon looks like God had some fun with a cake decorator. If it had not been so massive, it would almost be comical looking. Yet, the sheer size of it takes you back and it’s power is anything but funny. It is breathtaking in every sense of the word. As I stood there gazing, I got annoyed. I know, not the emotion we would typically associate with beauty but I was clearly irritated. I couldn’t look anymore, and because I didn’t have a cell phone and social media was just not a thing, I could only simply turn my gaze and try to find an out. I was done. I wanted to move on to the next thing. Let’s keep it moving people. My travel companion at the time was with was not feeling my same urgency to get going. Without them I was stuck. I had no choice but to ride this anxiety thing out. I reluctantly began to question what the heck my problem was. Why couldn’t I enjoy this majesty like the rest of the tourists with googly eyes around me?


It didn’t take very long for me to nail down my answer.  It wasn’t complicated. It was just too much. Just too much damn beauty. It was the kind of beauty that makes you feel. It slams into your heart leaving little wiggle room to get out. At the particular moment of my life I didn’t want to feel. Period.  In my adolescent years I had quickly learned, if you truly feel the “good” stuff, you can just NOT avoid feeling the hard stuff too. They go hand and hand. The heart is all encompassing. Letting my heart open enough to take in Bryce Canyon would also mean I had to let in the fact that I had just left everything I had ever known to move across the country and give it a go on my own. Truth – I was totally and utterly terrified. So….I put my foot down. No beauty. Not feeling. I am going to zip through this cross county site seeing gig with blinders on and just get this “on my own” gig going. Heart closed.


This was, pretty much, exactly what was going on with my broken up with a building in the middle of it,  brilliant sunset the other night. My urge to look away was due to my unwillingness to feel. I didn’t want to let that hard hitting brilliance in. It was blatantly making me feel. It was prying open my heart when I so clearly was determined to keep it closed. Even just for a little bit. I am not the same naïve 22 year old that makes that bold choice to sport blinders in an effort to do it on my own. Thankfully, life is teaching me to make bold choices that lean more towards authenticity today. However, when life gets big and the unknown gets loud, I unconsciously (or sometimes consciously) pick up those old coping skills. My heart slowly begins to put up some poorly built fences and hold it’s breath. I know those fences won’t hold very long. I know that the sunset can find it’s way in through the holes in my fence and my heart will at some point with need to breathe again. Taking it all in.


My choice today is weather I want it to be a deep gasping inhale that knocks me off my feet for a bit and sends me instinctively grasping for my heart, wanting to protect it from breaking wide open. Or would I rather allow for a slow honest break with each deep inhale along with the soul mending surrendering exhales.


I let go of distractions. I sat and I watched, still enough to hear my own breath. I felt more than I saw.  Tears welled up, my heart both breaking and mending with each breath. It was a prayer without words. God reminding me, once again, I am held with Love in this beautifully broken world. This is clear.