Beauty. In the midst of suffering, brokenness, devastation.
Is it possible?
Dictionary.com defines beauty as “the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).”
Our world sees beauty as flawless, perfection, an outward appearance. What if there’s more to beauty than what the eye can see?
We seem to know the things that are not beautiful very well. Brokenness. Destruction. Devastation. Division. Lies. Accusations. Bitterness. Anger. Hurt. Some of us have experienced one of these things. Maybe more. Some of us go through seasons with these things. Some of us live there or at least camp out there for a while.
What if there was beauty in the midst of it all? What if there was purpose to our suffering.
That’s our story.
My husband and I have served in the ministry since before we were married. I felt called to be a minister’s wife and he was called to be a pastor. We got married and started serving together and once our kids came along we continued to serve, but as a family. We recently went through a season in His church that was present with lies, accusations, and division. We were fulfilling our calling and in the midst of it were being torn down. I think for so long we had tried to hold the walls together with whatever we could. We tried to pick up the pieces and glue them together. When that didn’t work, we stood, holding brick by brick up so the walls wouldn’t come tumbling down. As we stood, we watched as what we had built became rubble. We sat in the midst of the rubble, clinging to what remained, clinging to the hope that the walls could be rebuilt, but mourning the loss of what once was. We sat wondering what happens now?
As we wept over the past, we sat holding each other, waiting to see what God had next for us and dealing with the feelings of bitterness and hurt that had enveloped us. What once held beauty had been turned to ashes. What once had brought deep satisfaction now brought hurt, fear and brokenness.
We spent months living in our hurt, our brokenness, and fighting our bitterness. All the while He was leading us, giving us hope little by little. Assuring us He was rescuing us out of our desperation.
The words of Isaiah 61 were never as evident in our lives as they were in the midst of our brokenness and suffering.
He had called us “to bring good news to the poor; to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives (vs.1); to comfort all who mourn (vs.2)” and now we were the ones needing comfort, needing to be reminded of our freedom as the devil, our enemy, had tried to whisper lies in our hearts.
In the midst of this season, we began to see how our story was affecting others, pointing people to the gospel, changing lives; we began to see the beauty from our ashes, from the rubble. He was giving us a “beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit (vs.3).” We had sat in the rubble, looked up and cried for Him to rescue us, and He did. Oh how He did. He set our feet on a new path and only asked that we follow.
From the ashes, the rubble, there was a white flag. A white flag where we stood on the rubble and said, “We surrender to your will. Your path. Your new beginnings.” In our new beginnings, we are looking back at what was, looking back at the ashes, the rubble, and now we see the beauty in the midst of it all. The brokenness that made us cling to Him. The desperation that made us depend on Him. The new life that grew because of Him. He is planting us, “that we may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified (vs.3).”
See, when we surrender to His will and refuse to camp out in our devastation, we will “build up the ancient ruins; raise up the former devastations; repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations (vs.4).”
Many will choose to remain in the midst of their devastation, the ashes. As for me, I will choose to pick up the rubble and build an alter. This is where He clothed us with a beautiful headdress. This is where He picked up the pieces and started again. This is where we began again. This is where He showed us beauty from the ashes.
Please check out this video by Nicole Nordeman called “The Unmaking.” This song is my anthem right now. It was the inspiration for this blog: