I started snapping pictures the moment I entered the historic lobby.
I really can’t help myself when intricate beauty and history collide.
“If these walls could speak…” I kept mumbling to myself.
I was taking my 10th shot when the greeter tapped my shoulder. He handed me a program for the musical and broke my enchantment:
“Have you been inside?”
I have a feeling that was not the first time he had ever said that.
“No, I guess we haven’t,” I replied meekly. I placed a hand on my daughter’s back and ushered her in.
“He says it’s even more beautiful in here,” I whispered into her ear, reverent.
We entered quietly.
I caught my breath.
The lobby had been beautiful, but the main theater with the dark red curtain was captivating.
When the show was over and the lights had come back up, we shuffled out into the snow.
It was frigid and we complained, but we were just finding something to talk about. The silhouettes of snowy trees and skyscrapers were beautiful.
I crawled between crisp hotel sheets and thought about the theater architecture and all the detaiIs. I contemplated the colors, the centuries displayed in the ceilings, the sconces, and the stage.
My mind wandered, just before sleep, realizing that lobbies takes many forms.
I know lobbies.
In ministry with cancer patients I have been in many a room close to heaven. Years back I sat with my young friend, rubbing her feet while she began singing with angels a few hours before she joined them. We talked about our children. She asked if I would speak at her funeral. My nodding “yes” was wrought with tears.
Last year I held the hand of my 92-year old grandmother for several hours, just before dawn, while she spoke in German, asking if the war was over. I had held her, assuring her of peace. I told her it was alright to go on to heaven. My daughter sat next to me, looking into those wise blue eyes and brushed her hair. It remains the most intimate lobby memory I’ve ever witnessed.
I love crawling close in hospital beds and into the stories with their glimpses of the main stage, and inviting the next chapter into the room. It’s painful and gorgeous all at once.
It’s the most beautiful thing my soul has ever felt.
Maybe that’s why the lobby did something to me that day.
I realized, that night, my head on the pillow:
We take pictures of the lobby and try to hold onto those moments, but this is not where true beauty lies.
I wonder if we can grasp that? I wonder if we understand there is more when we feel a slight squeeze of our hand in a hospital room, a body inching toward new life. Do we know how heaven will sound when a newborn announces his first noise in this world, or when we walk slowly through tall pines in God’s creation? We come close to glimpsing it all when our father’s whiskers brush against our cheek on our wedding day, a dog’s chin leans on our knee when all seems bleak, or a son’s toothless grin glances back over his backpack in second grade. But they are lobby moments.
The winter sunset, a summer sunrise, the white wedding dress, the last firefly of the evening, the next candle on the cake, a last peaceful breath. The turned autumn leaf, new snowfall, the long-awaited first wobbly steps. The first kiss, his last smile. The first time we see her picture on our bookcase and remember she’s in heaven and not here.
Moments we feebly attempt to capture with our heart, a camera, on Instagram, or Pinterest?
We are in the lobby.
We have only caught a glimpse of beauty.
1 Corinthians 2:9
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And [which] have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
(photos were taken at The Oriental Theater in Chicago)