Vapour-Trails of Joy: My Wintry Education in Delight

I am not living in the expectation of death, I am living in the resurrection that is born of the preceding second. I am living in a kind of vapour-trail of joy.

–Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,  Flight to Arras

Winter in Korea is bone-shakingly cold; on the weekends, I waddle out the door in multiple pairs of pants, sweaters, jackets, scarves, and, occasionally, a hat or two. Only my insatiable itch for bottomless mugs of drip coffee and American-style brunch leads me from safety towards the bus-stop. (Literally speaking, I’m led by my boyfriend. In order to not freeze, I wrap scarves across my face and over my eyes, so he has to hold my hand and keep me from wandering into traffic.)

By the time I grab a seat aboard the 9800 bus going toward Seoul, I’m a shivering, shuddering mess, and the fierce winds and -7 C temperatures have effectively shriveled my sensitivity to beauty and delight down to the size of a mustard seed.

Still, I believe this weekly ritual–my slavish devotion to eggs benedict and fluffy pancakes, distance be damned!–nourishes me spiritually as well. For the past few weeks, my world has been strictly limited: teaching and sweating over grad school applications. When the aforementioned boyfriend makes me mac-and-cheese, I don’t even do the dishes–just shove my nose further into whatever documents demand my attention.

But, oh, these magical weekend mornings . . . beginning with the long bus ride to Seoul, I finally have time to reacquaint myself with delight–a neglected book; smart-phone chess; shared headphones and jazzy tunes.

Ever since I read The Great Divorce, I’ve been fascinated by how our actions in this life prepare (or do not prepare) our tender, transparent feet to step on the real, diamond-strong grass of Heaven. Usually, I think of this almost entirely as a process of suffering and self-sacrifice, or stewardship of a rather painful variety.

For me, remembering that pain forges our being is easy; we feel shame so markedly, and those moments of anguish, whether for ourselves or others, embed themselves in our consciousness without effort.

But when we forget ourselves in delight, our souls also expand–perhaps only one breath, but still, a lesson in breathing the good, perfect air of heaven. God created minutia, but I need practice to appreciate it.

Yes, Christ breaks our bones to heal them, but I require more than just an education in suffering; when the scales finally fall from my eyes, I want to look about and nod, thinking, “I’ve seen this goodness before.”

The luminescence of suffering makes us Christ-like; the love of good and perfect things makes us like our Creator–the God grand enough for both mountains and minutia.


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