Jul 28, 2008

I Am More Beautiful

Whatever you’ve heard about Hawaii, believe. Unless someone tells you it’s paradise. A friend was praying a week before I flew here and he accidentally asked God to bless me in heaven. It was quickly reworded, “Hawaii,” as we all giggled. My very first impression when I saw the mountains that surround my brother’s house, (one which has lasted these three months) was not that I would find beauty here, but that I would find the Lord. Every time I have paused to take in a sight and have intentionally opened my spirit to hear His comments on it, He has said this: “I am more beautiful.” It is no denigration of the creation lying in front of us. It is just simple truth. And I love that truth!

I was reminded of this in Kauai this past week. The beauty there should have been overwhelming, and to many people it probably is. But I’m just me, and God keeps whispering this thing in my ear, and I stare at lush mountains and white-frosted aqua seas and they seem remote and half-way compared to the tangible presence of Jesus.

The two things I don’t have pictures of are what most impressed a mark on me. At the organic farm where we camped one night we hung out in the “cookhouse” with a pile of the hippies who work 15 hours a week in exchange for a campsite. Laid-back, earthy, dull, and-in spite of their grasped and obtained “freedom”-visibly repressed, they welcomed us with an ease and a carelessness that was little interested in whether we were or were not. Two thoughts were paramount during those hours with them. One was whether or not it’s possible to get high accidentally off the fumes of someone else’s weed (oh, I’m so ignorant…it’s funny, but don’t laugh at me, Anna Lew!) and the other, fighting for predominance and winning, was how I could possibly share the good news with this group of people so in need of it. Conversation was not engaged in, openings were not being made, and I felt myself so ill-equipped (as Mr. Darcy might say) to recommend myself to strangers such as these. Why would they listen to a clean, groomed girl who had spent the last few nights in a posh resort, was a college graduate, and politely declined their offers to share in the joints? The more they smoked, the more each retreated into their own internal world and the chance slipped further out of my fingers. Do you know how frustrating it is to know how to save a drowning man but be tied to your boat? I kept praying for some sort of opening and finally God gave me the opportunity He had built into the evening. Hippie girl #1 (bubbly and carefree) had been to the store and bought markers and a journal. It was decided that everyone who stayed there should write in it, and Deanna and I were to inaugurate the book since we were the first who would be “leaving” the farm. When it finally got into my hands I knew what to write about—His voice, continually telling me, “I am more beautiful than this,” and my joy at having something more to look forward to than the beauty in the natural realm.

We retreated then, using a cell phone to guide our stumbling feet along ruts and mango rows and vegetables growing in the red dirt. Before bed we were invited into the owner’s metal barn-home, where we were supposed to be watching a movie but instead watched scuttling cockroaches in relief against the bright computer screen-the only bit of light in all that huge, dirty space. I was glad they were on the screen, for then they were not on me (at least, so I hoped).

The second interaction that impressed me was with Vladimir, the Russian-named Brazilian to whom we fed s’mores roasted to perfection in Lawrence’s beach campfire. Lawrence had gotten a job recently, but didn’t have enough yet to snag a place to live, so he was camping on the beach until he’d saved up. Tom, his friend, came and zipped himself up in his bag next to the fire, accepted one of our s’mores, and promptly slipped into an oblivion of sleep only the homeless achieve. The starry sky above us would surely turn rainy at some point during the night. I didn’t remember Tom being there until morning, after I had survived the disturbing hours of high wind and crashing surf from under the safe cover of a Marine combat tent. How Tom fared I don’t know. He was gone before we rose. But Vladimir, who was so handsome and thought he knew so much…who accepted our food and our help in the dark rain then carelessly insulted all we had told him of ourselves…whose request to impose himself on the rest of our trip we refused, yet who unknowingly slept all night as a tent guard between us and the creepo in the camp beyond… this man I tried to reason gently with under the stars. There is absolute truth. Religions are made by man, but God is still Himself, whatever we may say of Him. Should we throw away reality because someone else once offered us a twisted rendition of it? But he would not listen. Perhaps he was thinking too much about sleeping on the beach under such stars, or about managing to get a place in our car the next day, or about the very American experience of campfire s’mores next to pretty, kind girls. In any event, I was glad when rain abruptly sent us scattering to our various tents.

That is not a very complete rendition of our Kauai trip, which also involved treacherous hikes toward the wettest place on earth, views of an unparalleled Napali coastline, dances in the festival crowds around very Hawaiian bands, tastes of Kauai pie ice cream (coffee, coconut, macadamias, fudge), sushi and poke, destroyers anchoring off swimming beaches, birds playing among the resort’s breakfast buffeters while early surfers dotted the waves just beyond, pervasive and permanent red dirt, packaging up 70 lbs fresh mangoes for transport to the airport then Hilo, Queen’s Bath’s salty buoyancy giving us the ability to swim and watch the schools of fish around our feet at the same time… The beauty of Kauai is extreme, but even in the midst of it, He kept whispering the same thing to me: “I am more beautiful than this.” And I am so glad. I would be sorely disappointed if anything I could see or experience on this earth was the pinnacle of joy and beauty. I need more to look forward to than that, and I have it.

I've posted tons of photos w/lots of explanatory captions on facebook. Here's a link, for those of you who are interested :)