Let God’s Goodness Break In

Sarah ClarksonBy Sarah Clarkson6 Minutes

Excerpt taken from This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson


I didn’t expect to step into the garden of Eden when I walked out the door. I didn’t expect anything at all that day, curled up as I’d been in a cramped room with ceilings on which I bumped my head and thoughts that left my faith no room to stand up straight. It was my total lack of expectation, a sense that everything beautiful had gone beyond my touch, that made the beauty of the garden so startling. I walked out the door of the old student house into late, honeyed light in an English garden and abruptly felt like Eve walking into a newborn world.

I felt as if blood was returning to my senses, as if they’d been numbed and I hadn’t even known. A buzz of voices swelled happily round me as I walked farther into the light. I stood in the shadow of the shabby but gracious old English house where I was living while I worked for the summer as an intern at a nearby church. I’d lived in that house for six weeks, yet I felt as if I were truly seeing the garden for the first time, and it was like the secret garden I’d read about in the old favorite story of my childhood. Ivy clothed the weathered red brick of the house, apple trees grew haphazardly around the green lawn, and the old garden beds were a riot of flowers—lavender and climbing roses and towering lupines.

A party awaited, the reason I’d come to begin with, for one of my housemates was moving and throwing himself a going-away picnic. But I hadn’t expected such a feast. Three wooden tables were set against the stone wall at back of the garden with huge, cracked old bowls crammed with stemmed strawberries or golden melon and patterned with scenes in china blue. There were piles of cheese, more than I had ever seen in one place outside a store: brie melting gently, Wensleydale with its starring of fruit, Stilton and cheddars with crackers and olives lumped around them. The last table almost toppled with innumerable bottles of wine, the dark glass glinting under the sun.

The light was thick like honey, low in the sky so that the shadows grew long under the trees and tangled their gentle darkness with the gold. I felt it around me as the gentlest of warmth, easing my tired mind, brightening my eyes, and out of that brightness, my friend came to greet me.

“Sarah, you came! I am so glad,” he said, and two kisses were quickly set, one on each cheek in European style, as my hands were gripped and pressed. “There’s so much to eat, get a plate and join us.”

I started after him, but halted, just an instant, as the strange feeling of something like relief flooded into my heart. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that I was starving. That the body and soul of me, however nourished in the ordinary ways, were almost wild with yearning for touch and laughter, for people to see me and want my company, for beauty I could hold in my hand and taste in my mouth. I had spent long weeks enduring a hunger for color and touch and music I did not address because I did not think it was important. Yet it was that very unmet ache whose yearning led me to the lonely Saturday I had just spent in a high, shadowed room in an old house, thinking that faith was a dim thing and God an idea I could no longer desire.

But the touch of my host’s hands drew me out of darkness and into the light of human affection. The taste of strawberries and sparkling wine and brie startled me into a joy I had forgotten. The rich beauty of God’s summer world, with that sly, merry light, found me in the garden—and in the startling joy of it, I reached for God’s hand. Amidst the feast whose loveliness was melting my loneliness, I began to wonder if the hunger that had become a ravening void at the center of myself led not to death, but joy . . .

Order your copy of This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Breaks into Our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson