If I had a word to give you for this year, these 60-and-some-change days that have been glimmering with fantastic possibility, it would be beautiful. But I don’t mean they have been beautiful, in that delightfully cheesy, “It’s a beautiful life!” kind of way. But that word—and essentially, the idea of beauty—has been taking over my thoughts. The Lord has offered it time and time again, lately; it hasn’t been about me, necessarily, or my beauty, or even external beauty, but rather, the root of beauty. Beauty, I’ve learned, is a characteristic of God. He is beautiful. And just like His characteristics that call Him to justice and goodness and love, beauty is not something He can walk away from. He can’t entertain injustice; he will never offer anything that isn’t good; His love never fails. And nothing about Him isn’t beautiful.
Of course, the world has distorted so much of what was meant to glorify the Lord; perhaps it has done this most to beauty. We have made it all about us. We spend our lives asking whether or not we are beautiful and basing how we feel about who we are on how the world answers us. But the beauty I’m talking about doesn’t have too much to do with worldly beauty, which should give us all a lot of hope, because I mean, stuff happens to your face, you know? Let’s just get that out of the way by acknowledging what the Lord says about our faces:
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'” —1 Samuel 16:7
I know this is something we struggle with, but this isn’t really the kind of beauty I’ve been thinking about, so we’ll say that and move on, OK? You are a beautiful child of God. Own it, lovely person.
Anyway, I’ve had to explain my affinity for the flower on several different occasions recently. I could have told you all along that I perceived something specific about the Lord in my heart every time I encountered a flower, especially, of course, a wildflower. But I’d never had to put it succinctly into a pretty paragraph like I’ve had to in the recent days, and suddenly, it became a lot more clear: It’s His beauty that I get when I watch the flowers sway. And of course I want more of it; beauty heals the soul, and that’s something we all seem to agree with.
And for awhile, I wasn’t sure what to do with this revelation, this glimpse of Jesus that was something so different; it wasn’t a word I’d grown up associating with the Lord. Father, absolutely. Good, definitely. Powerful, Perfect, yes and yes. Beautiful? Do we usually think of dirty feet and bloody nails as beautiful? Do we pass 32-year-old carpenters and allow our breaths to catch at their beauty? Do we survey the world with its poverty, its corruption, its orphans, its pain and turmoil and sheer desctruction and think, “The beauty overflows. Be still my beating heart.” We should.
“To those who have sorrow in Zion I will give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. I will give them the oil of joy instead of sorrow, and a spirit of praise instead of a spirit of no hope. Then they will be called oaks that are right with God, planted by the Lord, that He may be honored.” —Isaiah 61:3
“And what about me?” I asked. I told you, I’m not concerned with vanity here, though rest assured, I am not exempt from that struggle. But what about me, Jesus? What about my life? If you guys know me very well—and if you don’t, we should get coffee—you know there are parts of my life that can seem like a chaotic mashup of ugliness. The opposite of beauty, I’m saying. I’ve been the girl on the date who has to look the boy in the eyes and confess not only do I have baggage, but that I had to hire my own bellhop to carry it around for me. His name is Jesus. I am free, and there is no “but,” to follow that statement. Freedom, though, is a continual process, one I’ll be carrying out my entire life. Can I get an amen, people? And so I ask again: What about me? Where does this aspect of beauty come in where I am concerned? And here was my cry, some of my most favorite lyrics in all the musical land:
“I lean not on my own understanding; My life is in the hands of the Maker of Heaven. I give it all to You, God, trusting that you’ll make something beautiful out of me.” —United Pursuit, “Nothing I Hold On To”
See, it’s true. Satan has lied to my family; he’s even gotten his grip on them, making them believe things about themselves and each other that are not true. He has done this to me. but what satan meant to turn ugly, the Lord has transformed. My thinking, my life, my heart, the very essence of my soul has been called into beauty. He has called me beautiful. Not just my face, not just my story, not just my soul, but all of me. And while there are times when beautiful is the last adjective I’d place on my day, He up and reminds me that my life is of His making, and He can’t be anything but beautiful—intensely pleasurable and deeply satisfying. It was these lyrics that the Holy Spirit used to prompt me to write all of this down:
“‘Cause I am a sinner; If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
Caught up in words, tangled in lies.
But You are a Savior, and you take brokenness aside,
And make it beautiful
You make it beautiful.” —All Sons and Daughters, “Brokenness Aside”
So what does it mean? I don’t know what it means for you. I know that there’s a lot of ugly in this world; after all, we live under the dominion of evil on this earth. But take heart, people. We claim victory. We have overcome. And we haven’t just scraped by, oh no we have not. We reign in beauty. We live to give glory—what’s more beautiful than that? It’s true for me that it’s the flowers (and the sky, but mostly the flowers) that call my heart back to this truth, that dance my soul down the avenue of beauty. When I start to doubt, I simply have to stop and smell the [poppies.] And like Henri Matisse said, there are flowers everywhere.
The beauty of it all overwhelms my soul.
Walk in beauty, my friends.
(Props to Taylor Hardy for introducing me to “Brokenness Aside.” Major soul blessing, brother.)