Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lessons from the Curtains



March 30, 2014

Dear friends,

The curtains in my study are a work of art. They filter sunlight through a sheer paisley pattern of faded golds and greens. They surprise and delight my senses at all times of day.

A different beauty comes when afternoon sun and early twilight sift their dimming light through this fabric. Shapes and colors that appeared intricate and detailed in sharp morning light are muted now, lines blurred. In these evening moments I sometimes see both art and epiphany. The melded colors in that living palette can appear to be a shadow cast on earth by the imagination of God.

These are teaching curtains, and I am grateful for their on-going mentoring.

They remind me daily that cost is not necessarily a corollary of beauty, nor is complexity a definitive component. The light-magic fabric from which these curtains were made was purchased from the remnant table on sale at the outlet of a local department store. Understanding my design, the seamstress simply measured, cut and hemmed the fabric, then hung the “curtains,” using clips on a rod (clips and rods retrieved from another remnant table at the same outlet sale).

Beauty does require attention and energy, however.

The study walls are painted a warm beige that is only two paint chips away from one of the reoccurring golds in the paisley pattern. The curtain fabric also has flecks of wine-colored petals and leaves that appear with unexpected, unpredictable assertiveness in the paisley gold and green. In the study the wall almost covered by book shelves is painted merlot, a shade of burgundy that is about six paint chips away from the flecks of wine-colored petals and leaves that occur with random beauty in the curtain fabric.

To know the room, to see its patterns of shadow and light, its shape and space; to sense the weight of the books, to account for their volume; this required thought.

To organize a peace-shaped space for both me and my hand-me-down sofa required more than a measuring tape.

This space must hold in comfort thinking and writing and the struggle of work. Then, too, in peace and sabbath stillness, this space must hold the quiet work of prayer, the joy of praise, the comfort of rest.

Living into this room, living with this room, living with myself—each challenging tasks in themselves—led to still a tougher assignment: making a place where the space and light of the room and the dimensions of life as I live it made a congruent whole.

Often in the process I was tempted to “whatever.”  It would have been much simpler (and much easier) to use what was at hand and get the project finished. “Doing it right” meant making mistakes and correcting them with all the expense and aggravation entailed in that process, and facing the uncomfortable fact that my capacity to respond to beauty and my ability to create it are clearly not commensurate.

Further, I can easily become emotionally lazy. It would have been far easier (and quite socially acceptable) to settle matters simply by hiring an interior designer and giving this professional person a free hand. At several points in the project I was more than willing to compromise my responsibility to make the person I am, the work that I do, and the space in which I live congruent.  I continue to be glad, however, that I did not elect this alternative.

This week my mentoring curtains had a word to say about contentment. This curtain wisdom of the week grew out of a casual conversation with a friend who asked if, expense being no issue, I would ever consider moving. We laughed then, knowing the answer in advance on the basis of the strong dislike of moving that we share.

Later as I watched afternoon sun filter through the curtains and pool on my desk top, I thought, “No. I have no desire to move, but it is more than my deep aversion to uprooting. I want to stay here—I am truly content with what I have.”

Wondering with you today about the relationship between beauty and covetousness. Perhaps when the temptation to want more rears its ugly head I need to ask myself: Do I need to acquire more things or to make more beauty with the things I have? Or, perhaps even more simply, do I need to see the beauty where I am?

Jesus made an example of the lilies in the field.  It is not coincidental that when Jesus pointed out God’s provision for the lilies He said (Hubbard paraphrase), “See, not even Solomon with all his wealth was able to clothe himself with a beauty like this.”

Wondering with you if I could see more of the beauty around me would I be less tempted to look at Solomon’s wealth with longing eyes?

See you next week.

Gay

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