Stepping In And Out of Enchantment

The Uragh stone circle in Ireland is like something out of a fairy tale.

We got lost finding it—or thought we did.  Following the GPS, our rented car bounced down a one-lane rutted road on the Beara Peninsula.  We hadn’t seen a gate or a sign. Hedges battered the car.  I kept closing my eyes, sure we’d meet someone coming around the bend.

When my husband and I came to a cleared spot of muddy land that looked to be a parking lot, we got out and we stared at each other.  “Is this…it?” I asked. 

We stood on farmland.

Rolling green hills stretched in every direction.  Cows grazed idly only an arms-length away.  A rowdy creek burbled by.  And nothing gave any indication that we might be in the right place except a sheep gate with a donation box tied to it.

We went through and followed a worn little path, hoping we weren’t trespassing.

And then, in the distance we saw it.  Eager now, we hastened our steps up the little knoll, and the circle came into view.  Five enormous stones stood in a circle against the most impossible backdrop: mountains, lakes, waterfalls.

We gawked.  And gawked.  And gawked.

It looked like where Excalibur ought to be.  Or like a beloved spot elven place in Lord of the Rings.  Everything about Uragh spoke enchantment.  Crossing into it felt like walking into another world.

I cried when we left, and couldn’t explain why.

But I understand now. We live in a world that is not very enchanted at all.  Prosaic, even.  And now—especially now—with so much sickness and suffering and struggle, we live in a world that feels shadowed.  Pale.  Weary.

We go to work and we come home, we engage in our ministries, we tend to spouses and children, we go to church, we come home again, we complete our chores, we celebrate milestones and mourn struggles.  And sometimes it all feels so small. 

Despite the best efforts of Liturgy of the Ordinary, it can be hard to see God in those ordinary days.

And it’s harder in times of struggle.  We got the news last week that my mother’s cancer has returned.  Praise God, she begins immunotherapy tomorrow, but it was not news that we wanted.  Hearing it made me think of the first time she was diagnosed, and the shock and sorrow that followed. 

Sadness and struggle, unexpected difficulty, turns the world gray, and drains it of much of its magic.

But there is enchantment, and hope, and much beauty behind the veil of our mortality and our limited sight.  I think sometimes modern Christians in particular are guilty of ignoring the deeply supernatural, the deeply enchanted, the wonderfully bewildering aspects of Scripture: the nephilim, angels, the great cosmic stage of Job, the staggering imagery of Ezekiel and Revelation.

Philip Yancey posited in his work that our faith has cosmic significance of which we are almost entirely unaware: that our belief in God here has an impact where God is.  Heavenly beings rejoice over repenting sinners.  The Garden, as far as we know, remains guarded by the flaming sword.  We haven’t the slightest clue what we don’t know. 

But there are glimpses.

There are moments like I experienced at the Uragh stone circle where you can feel it, a little: the grandeur and how large it all is, the bare edge of what we can’t comprehend.  There are acts of deep love and courage and humility.  There is laughter in the face of difficulty.  There is exquisite natural beauty.  There are books and stories, like Lord of the Rings, whose authors understand the importance of story as a way to point to something greater.

They are a testament: God is on his throne, and his kingdom is grander than I can possibly imagine.

So as the prosaic days go by, or as struggles arise, I turn to those little glimpses.  They are a reminder of the redemption that is and that is to come, certainly, but they are a reminder also of what I can enjoy now: of God’s love for the world, of all that He made, of how vast and incomprehensible He is.

And like Elijah fleeing to Horeb, I’m nourished by these exquisite encounters.

I wish you one, for yourself, very soon.

(I would very much appreciate your prayers for my mother. Thank you!)

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