I used to buy old broken-down furniture to refurbish and sell. I even owned a booth in an antique mall for a while. It was fun finding a piece with good bones that I could scrub, sand, stain, and wax so it looked exactly like it was.
Once in awhile, I’d come across furniture that had been painted. Some were hidden under layer upon layer of paint. It was work to get through to uncover the raw wood, and many times even when I got past the last layer of paint, little traces of the color could be seen. Many times, there was no sanding it away because it had seeped into the grain, and was forever deep into the wood grain.
I’d redone a few pieces like that when I began to realize there was actually something special in the chippy, peeling paint. The paint layers, dings, and marks told a story of the life they lived and gave them character. I imagined the many hands that had wiped across their surface, the many ways they’d been beaten and damaged. It gave them a deep beauty. It was almost like the wisdom people gain from years of exposure to the elements of life.
So, I stopped painting and fixing. I decided I liked their character and made the decision to stop trying to change what they’d become and just love them as is. I’ve come to believe in the beauty of less than perfect things.
Sometimes, life can take us places we never asked to go. Hard things, terrible things, sad things, and painful things fall around us and on us, and in the process, we get banged up. There was a time, I thought we Christians were exempt from that experience, but boy was I misinformed. Far from being kept from trouble, we sign up for it when we make a salvation declaration. (John 16:33) Um…. How’s that for a sales pitch? Ready to sign up?
The thing is, we’re going to have that trouble anyway. It’s not being a Christian that brings it on, it’s our human condition. We live in a world where sin exists. And with that sin, bad things happen. My sin, your sin, his sin, her sin falls on the person next to them and impacts them in harsh and troublesome ways.
Our comfort is knowing that when we DO go through those experiences we aren’t going alone. The twenty-third Psalm – a go-to when things are hard – promises that we are going through the valley of the shadow of death. “Through” is the important word. We’re assured there’s an end to the suffering. Psalm 30:1-5 promises there will be joy in the morning.
But, did you know there is beauty in the pain we go through? Isaiah 61:3 is my life verse. It promises that God will take the broken and burned things in our lives and from them create something lovely. In His hand the brokenness is no longer an ugly scar, it’s a thing of amazing beauty.
Last year at this time, I felt God’s prompting to leave my corporate job – where I’d stayed comfortably for twenty-two years. There was much prayer, seeking God, and talking to mentors before I made the decision. On January 2 of this year, I set in motion my exit plan and looked with excitement to what God was doing in my life. I decided my word for the year would be “go.”
My last day of work was April 1 – yes April Fool’s Day. I walked out the door of my office one last time, smiling at my obedience. I was out of the boat and ready for the next adventure God and I would take.
Then boom. Life kicked in. On April 4, my beloved, amazing sister passed away unexpectedly. It hit me like a punch in the gut. She was my champion. She’d been there growing up and knew the wild journey that had been. She’d supported me when I wrote my book and left my job to step into ministry and self-employment. Now she was gone and the pain was wrenching and awful. Still, I knew God was with me. I knew he would not leave me to walk this alone. And, still, I knew I would get through it.
As I tried to grieve, more things came my way. It seems like every month for most of the year we’ve had some type of fairly major issue to work through – whether physical, financial, in our home, in our relationships. We were able to work through each one, but it was stressful and I started feeling anxious but leaned in even more to God. I knew this was part of the journey, but wondered where the “go” had gone.
So why am I telling you all this?
I know I am not the only one who has had an incredibly hard year. But I want you to know, I can honestly say I’m okay with the year I’ve had. You see I figured something out. There is often beauty in brokenness. Many times, we grow and change and learn to trust God in deeper more intimate ways through difficulty. Often it is then that we know what it means to be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).
A year ago, the message was “get out of the boat” (Matthew 14:22-33). When I made the decision to be obedient, I thought that was the most difficult part of the journey. However, it’s become clear that when you are out of the boat you have to trust in God in ways you never thought possible.
Standing on water – let alone walking on it – is where our relationship with the Lord gets real. That walk involves keeping our eyes on the one who called us out to join him. It’s a deeper faith-walk. And it means we must trust that his hand will keep us from sinking below the waterline.
But friends, let me tell you, this is the best place to be. Being thrust into situations where God alone can supply, save, heal, bless, speak into, and lift us up, His provision is made clear. At the bottom, we can clearly see his hand.
Yep, it’s been one heck of a year. But I am grateful that my God has not only walked through the broken places with me, he’s used them to draw me closer to Him. And that, my friends, is beauty in the brokenness.