Friday, February 24, 2006

beauty for ashes

and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
-Isaiah 61:3

i found this week that i have lots of ashes in my life.

lots of remnants from my past, my present that leave soot on my heart and my hands. and these remnants are from memories, from events, from broken dreams and misshapen heart-spots; from disappointments and regretted self-disclosures, from far and distant friendships. even remnants of thoughts dust the soles of my feet and seem to smear grayish black on whatever i touch. thoughts of the future. thoughts of life, of family--mine now and my own. thoughts of idealism. thoughts of peace and joy and hope and love.

i am not quite sure where these remnants and thoughts turned to ashes. perhaps its my own tendency toward pessimism. perhaps its the world that has conditioned me to think practically instead of prayerfully. or perhaps its the safeguard that God has so generously glazed around my heart. whatever it is, i keep watching my ashes. i keep watching and wishing they would be what i want them to be, that they would spontaneously take shape in the form of renewing serenity and answered prayers.

but my wishes are in vain.

because it was God who allowed the ashes--whatever the cause of them. it was God who sacrificed my dreams and hopes and heartfelt desires. it was God who lit them on fire and watched their brillance fade into grayish bleakness.

am i angry? no. am i scornful? no. am i purposeless? absolutely not.

do you know what happened after mt st. helens blew? ash was everywhere. for miles and miles inches of ash fell. the brilliant spectrum of green on the mountainside instantly turned to gray. the snow capped peak blew into a million bits and left a gaping hole at the mountain top. it was gray. it was ugly. for months.

but then something exciting happened. little green shoots peaked their heads out of the gray. purple wildflowers baked in the sun. animals left footprints in the gray ash. the mountain was changing again....God was repainting brilliance on the mountainside. He was renewing serenity and beauty.

and you know...i figured something else out: that God is doing that in our lives too. you see...all my ashes--all the remnants of hopes and dreams and memories, the things i once held dear--have turned to ash for a reason. because God wants to send little green shoots and purple flowers up through my ashes. because God loves. because God cares. because God knows.

and despite all the ashes i have in my life right now--for all the black marks of soot i've left on every tangible being in my life....i've already noticed that it is beginning to smell fresh. something like purple wildflowers, maybe.

God is working. He's making beauty from my ashes.

1 comment:

Christopher said...

You know I think a guy named Shane Barnard sings a song about that. :)

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