Sometimes God uses beauty to steel us and heal us. Nature can surprise us with glimmers of glory that enlarge our hearts and ennoble our minds.

Last November, I was on a Dallas-bound plane coming home from Atlanta just before Thanksgiving. Delta was late leaving that airport, which they ought to rename Purgatory, since you never hope to stay there but always pray to leave going upward.

Anyway, I was on one of those huge air whales, packed to the gills. Row 44. The man next to me, in the middle seat, must have just missed having to buy two seats for himself. I was listing to the left the whole way, trying first to breathe and then to sermonize on my laptop in the cramped quarters — a sermon about being thankful!

We were late, and I was supposed to pick up my daughter, Cameron, who was arriving from Greenville at the American terminal. Cameron is a freshman at Furman University, having fled Texas to stretch her topographical appreciation and regional parochialism. (I couldn’t convince her that New York — her father’s hometown — might have suited the aim better than South Carolina. Kids!) She wanted mountains and beaches within a short drive, and an occasional hill along the way.

We had scheduled our flights to arrive at the same time, and my anxiety was doubling with each minute delayed.

I was trying to focus and block everything out, but there was this little girl, maybe six years old, sitting by the window across the aisle, traveling alone. She was looking into the night sky as we descended, calling out all the colors she could see in the sunset. Her oohing and aahing caught the attention of everyone in a three-row span. Strangers starting smiling at each other, realizing that the child was seeing things we were all missing in our grown-up hurry and worry. All at once, we all started craning our necks to see the colors for ourselves.

When I landed, I realized I had lost my keys somewhere in the journey and was stranded at the airport with my little girl waiting for her daddy to pick her up. My son drove out and rescued us both, but the mood on the way home was strangely light in light of all that had happened. I soon realized why.

Cameron asked me if I saw the sunset coming in on the flight. She hadn’t noticed the beauty of a Texas sunset until she returned to it. She lit up as she described an orange band of color that stretched across the curved rim of the prairie horizon. Kids!

Deep sighs followed quiet thanks to God. Beauty invites our wonder and bends our souls to find rest in the Maker.

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