I am fascinated with goodness. Ok, I’m a goodness-freak. As I travel NH, I keep pulling over every time I see some. I can’t get enough. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably noticed. (Go ahead and follow me. I’ll wait.) I brake for vintage churches, moose (and more often, signs warning of moose), roadside bakeries, tiny libraries, sculptures, and most recently, unusual farm animals. The other day I hung out with an alpaca, just to find out how long his eyelashes were, because as soon as I saw him, my car did a u-ey.
I can’t stand it, I have to get closer.
Goodness is like a firefly I follow as it blinks, reappearing lower, then higher in the night. Its heady scent gets me going. I believe in the goodness that is present at all times, not as a god or an idol, not as heroic effort, but as a breath – as sweet as baby skin – that we can fill our lungs with and magnify with our bodies and voices.
But it won’t be captured.
The other day I had a small batch of granola in the kitchen cooling, and that warm apple-cardamom aroma reminded me of Jesus. It just did 🙂 The word in Revelation 8:4 says the prayers of all God’s people rise like sweet incense in heaven in their own language of worship. I love that. Prayers and granola. But scents are brief – they are intense and then they fade like blazing glory that begs to be veiled. I think goodness is like that, which is probably why I’m on high alert to raise my face for every whiff.
Maybe this sounds like bright-siding to you, or think-a-happy-thought theology. You should know I resist stretched smiles as a salve for struggle, in fact my inner snark-alarm sounds when people say, ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ because deep down I believe in goodness that needs no hand-up from Hallmark. Goodness is sacred, so do not force-feed me fake goodness. Because I have known so much goodness, I have little patience for the make-believe.
One of my favorite novels is Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian because he uses the irony of family love and damaging events to express how understanding goodness can radically change us like a before-and-after experience. And that title – swoon! Goodness can be as unfathomable as the stranger who pulls your kid up out of deep water, and the next time, as simple as the downward twirl of cream entering ice coffee, making tastebuds ache.
Last night my daughter gave me amazing advice. Smack me in the face goodness came matter of factly out of her smiling lips. There’s nothing else like this girl’s face when she knows she’s right – radiant. Her perfectly timed wisdom, and the pleasure of her telling her mother a thing I couldn’t tell myself, was a pure delight. I can’t even tell you how it felt, because it was, like goodness always is, fast and strong. But, thank God, I didn’t miss it or dismiss it. Goodness, when it slips between people, is better on the goodness-scale than alpaca eyelashes – by a bunch.
Goodness is its own entity, its own emotion, its own ephemeral but still dependable circumstance, and that’s why I trust that it’s never not flowing. Stopping it to say ‘thank you’ midstream is practically obscene. Did God need to hear me word it out, or did he see the change on my face? A heart smile that rose like prayer, like incense, to his nostrils in glory.
No, he saw it. He harvests goodness from our lives in bushels.
Because God is not only good, but the source of all goodness. He called his glory, his essence, “my goodness” when he flashed Moses with it, and when I catch it, I know I’ve caught him.
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”
And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. Exodus 33:18-19