It’s easy for me to speak in platitudes. I’m good. It’s going fine. I’m living the dream. Ok, the last one is a little more sarcastic than the others. Sarcasm aside, it’s easy for me to see the beauty in things. I think I’m just wired that way. I can look out over the mountains, breath deep, and be stunned by the beauty of God’s creation spread out before me. But each of us is different and we see the world through different filters. Others can look out over the mountains and wonder who in their right mind would be up this high in the freezing cold staring at a pile of rocks. While I can see the beauty in the big things, I have a harder time seeing the beauty in the small. In the small things I tend to see the ugly. Especially the personal things. Especially things with other people involved (shudder). One of my favorite TV quotes is an old one from Seinfeld: “People, they’re the worst”.
Indeed, there is a lot of beauty in this world. But I think we Christians may be doing ourselves a disservice if we focus solely on the beauty and ignore the ugly. Let’s be honest, there’s a lot of ugly in this world. The older I get the easier it has become for me to not love the things of this world. In fact, I might have to pull myself back from becoming the old man who yells at kids to get off his lawn. Someone who is hurting most likely doesn’t need a slap on the back and a platitude that everything is going to be fine. It very well might not. What they need is someone who cares for them, someone to sit next to them, someone to hear them out. Someone to admit that sometimes there is an ugly, and that you’re there with them in the ugly. Admittedly, this is the ugly that I have a hard time dealing with. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not supposed to do it.
One of the most touching promises in the Bible is that the Lord will console those who mourn and will give us beauty in place of our ashes (Isaiah 61). Ashes seem about right. It’s what we’ve made of our world, ourselves, everything. Who would exchange ashes for something beautiful? Not me. But God does. Humanity needs hope, we need peace. It’s almost universal. Since I’m a Christian, I believe the only true hope is found in God. If you’re not religious, you probably try to find hope through other sources. I get that. A life without hope is hardly a life worth living. Jesus doesn’t take from you something valuable in exchange for His peace and beauty. It’s not a trade we would make. Both sides are not receiving equal value. He’s asking you to give Him your burned out ashes and He’ll replace them with beauty.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27. Using my own filters on this world, I usually see the beauty as peeking out through the ugly. I see us as living in a natural state of sin. Like a pig wallows in mud, we wallow in sin. It’s who we are. At one time in history, every thought of every person was evil all the time (Genesis 6). The fact that there is any beauty among the ugly right now is evidence of God’s grace. As time marches on, we will get back there (Matthew 24). There is much talk these days of “changing the world”. Sure. Fine. But you’re a small person and the world is a big place. Find the beauty peeking out from among the ashes. Care for someone you know who is hurting. Be the beauty for someone else. Ask the God of peace to replace your ugly with His beauty. Peace He will leave you, His peace He will give you.