By Mariah Secrest
After a couple years of living a normal suburban life, I’m starting to acclimate. I’m finding I enjoy going to work, studying, hanging out with friends, and taking care of my place. But then I do something like read a travel journal of Switchfoot’s trip to caste-controlled India and in a sad but relieving way, I’m haunted by this “more” theory.
But this isn’t one of those “more” feelings that makes me tired, like how I always feel I should be studying more and saving more or buying more or exercising more. This is a beautiful, alluring mystery that doesn’t scold or coerce. It invites. Invites my resigned heart not to give in yet.
This mystery also reminds me that I’m not the one who shapes the idea of “more” by my structure and self-motivation. Rather, I am the one who will be shaped if I choose to let it in.
See, beauty is slippery like that. There’s always this enormous temptation when we find something good to clench onto it and dissect it and bottle it up into some special formula so we can have it forever. Only thing is, then you don’t really have it. And you’re left standing there with the fragments of what was once beautiful but now kind of looks like all the other gimmicks. And you get really tired. At least I do.
It’s like that way with my music. I got to do music full-time for a year and I realized how beautiful it is to sing and travel and talk about life with people. I was afraid of letting that beauty slip away, so I borrowed guitars and songwriting books and started voice lessons.
“Maybe if I work hard enough, I can make that beauty happen.” But through my controlling formula and my “I-can-do-anything-I-want-if-I-work-frantically-enough” attitude, I killed the beauty. Music became a chore. A chore that I felt guilty about instead of a treasure to be pursued.
And here’s the bottom line. Beauty cannot be contrived. It can only be enjoyed. We can’t pack up the thunderstorm that’s drenching the purple desert flowers and pushing misty walls of clouds onto each other along the top of the staggering mountains above us. We can’t pack that up and take it with us. But we can stand there a little longer. We can linger and let the drops pat our temples, slide down the contours of our face until they run off our lips and return to the earth. And when it is over we can open our eyes from weeping over its loss because there will probably be a rainbow that brings with it new, uncontrollable beauty.
There is validity to this haunting of “more.” But we’re not going to get there by striving. The Pharisees of the Bible thought they could get there by meticulous self-discipline. But they completely missed the beauty of faith, reducing it to a concrete system of do’s and dont’s. It was the whores who were better at completely losing themselves in the wonder of faith. They didn’t have a lot going for them, so they had an easier time of getting over themselves. We, too, would do well to get over ourselves and our agenda’s.
So let beauty and faith be slippery. The sooner we learn to let go, the sooner we can be carried away by it.
Mariah has currently landed herself in Tucson, Arizona, where she’s finishing a philosophy degree.She enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys making music. Almost. You can visit her on Myspace at www.myspace.com/mariahsecrestmusic .