“1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:”
“11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.” -Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 11
A friend handed me a copy of a devotional on Ecclesiastes 3:11 at church Sunday. She said she was doing her devotional and thought of me since I had recently been posting on this very idea; beauty. I was very grateful for two reasons: 1) She cared enough to think of me and make me a copy, and 2) She cares enough to read my little blog and remember something I wrote! Makes my heart happy.
The funny thing is that she didn’t realize she was sending me a much needed message from God. I didn’t read the devotional until after we had returned home from the Community Easter Service (yep, a week early), and I desperately needed to read that scripture and the accompanying message by then.
The author of the devotional, Nicole Johnson, focuses on the need for us to embrace beauty as part of who God created us to be. Instead of getting so caught up in seeing the pain or ugliness in and around us, we often need to spend time focused on the beauty God has created in and around us; not to mention the beauty He is working to create through us.
I realized that while I have been unearthing some of the ugliness in my life in order to do some soul restoration, I have let my vision get clouded with the negative a bit too much.
Unfortunately this revelation came at an inopportune time, at least in my mind. Apparently, God thought otherwise, and as Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminded me, there is a time for everything. The time was right before the Community Easter Service was about to start.
After dropping Micah off in the nursery, I went to find a seat for the worship service. One of the “perks” of being a pastor’s wife is not having to sit with the hubs in worship. (Sense the sarcasm?) This is one of my least favorite parts. I love sitting with Aaron and worshiping together. I miss it greatly. So as he made his way to the stage, I looked around for a seat, and quickly found myself sitting alone. ALONE. The few people I knew were already surrounded and engaged in conversations, so I found a seat near the back, on the aisle in case I got paged to pick Micah up, or paged to the bathroom via my 30 wk pregnant bladder.
As I looked around, waiting for the service to start, my gaze wandered over to a recent acquaintance I had made. She is the wife of the new youth pastor for the Assembly of God church, and we had gone out to lunch at the beginning of February, right after they had moved to town. We also took them muffins as a welcome to the neighborhood gift. Literally, they are in our “neighborhood.” Despite being close in proximity, in age, and in life stage (they are expecting their first child, a girl, a month before I am due), we have yet to connect again post lunch-date, apart from a few texts and an issued dinner invite on our part. While I have hope that the friendship seeds are just late in blooming, it’s been hard not to feel rejected.
As I sat watching this sweet girl who literally had people approaching her from all sides, I was overcome with loneliness. She seems to have made more connections in the not quite 3 months of being new in town, that I haven’t been able to make in almost two years. I told Aaron later, “My heart broke.” I was thrilled for her and her husband, that they have been welcomed and accepted so warmly, but my heart ached that it hasn’t been as easy or successful for us.
I don’t know if it was a combination of being tired and hormones, but I got choked up. As I didn’t want anyone to see the Methodist Pastor’s wife crying in the church, I quickly got up and made my way outside. It was hard to catch my breath, and I couldn’t stop the sobs that made their way out. Almost everything in me wanted to walk the 100+ yards back to our house, and just have an all out pity party; almost. I knew that I wanted to worship, and I knew that was where I needed to be. I wanted to stop crying and move my feet. All I managed was a few feet into the parking lot and a very heartfelt prayer begging God for strength and guidance. As soon as I prayed, I was able to take some deep breaths and feel a sense of peace that had to come straight from God. I managed to make my way back to my seat after wiping away the tears and putting on my “fine face.”
It took a couple praise songs before I felt a bit better, but with each passing moment I felt God’s assuring presence that I was right where I needed to be. I also still felt the urge to flee, but I knew God wanted me to hear something that night. So I waited. Then came the message. The preacher was talking about Christ’s sacrifice and what it means to truly serve. He talked about getting the me out of the way of God using us as vessels of His grace, love, and glory.
What? I got a bit uncomfortable. Surely this was not what God wanted me to hear. He wanted me to hear that I am loved and that everything will be okay, right? Yes. But He also wanted me to hear that I often let myself get in the way of what He wants to do in and through my life. He wanted me to hear that I might have let my search become a bit too much about myself and less about what Him and His glory.
I heard every word, and even though it was a painful truth, I realized that I had been focusing so much on the pain I was feeling, I wasn’t appreciating the beauty of the healing. Despite still having pain and still needing some soul restoration, God has been doing beautiful things in and around me that I was failing to fully appreciate. God was urging me to turn my eyes back towards Him so I could clearly see what He wants to do through me. He wants me to embrace the beauty He is redeeming in me, mind, body, and soul.
As I came home strangely refreshed yet bone weary, I reached for the devotional I had been given. These words from Nicole Johnson (Fresh Brewed Life) resonated with the earlier message:
“Are we seeking to embrace beauty so that the world will accept us? No. Beauty needs to be redeemed unto the Lord. Do we embrace beauty so we can look as if we have it all together spiritually? No. Beauty is embraced because we don’t have it all together, and we are trusting God in a more radical way than ever before to make something beautiful out of our surrendered lives.”
After reading those words, the message from the evening service came to mind. Everything Jesus did was beautiful; everything an act of love and service to glorify God. Was he accepted? Only by a few; rejected and in fact despised by many. Did he always have it all together spiritually? He had his moment in the Garden of Gethsemane where he wanted nothing more than to have his faith path altered; he was human. But he trusted God more radically than anyone ever had or has, and God asked him to surrender his life. God also used his life as the most beautiful gift. Through Christ’s death we can overcome pain. Through Christ’s resurrection we can claim life, and oh, what a beautiful life God wants us to claim.
God loves us. Oh how He loves us. He gave us the beautiful gift of his son. He gives us the gift of grace, and in His time he makes us beautiful.
For the remaining days of this Lenten journey I am going to be focusing on Christ’s last days, and the beauty we can learn from them. I hope you will join me.