Her smile lit up the room. She was smart, articulate, and passionate. Her love for the Lord and His truth oozed out of her. When she would chime into our weekly Bible study discussion group, everyone’s eyes were trained on her and their pens quick to jot down her latest string of words. They were always poignant and timely. Easy phrases that broke through the tangled mess of thoughts and brought it all down to a solid truth of God we could sink our teeth into. Her story was sweet as well – newly married and joyfully moving into a newly renovated house with a dream view. She was radiant and exciting, polished and elegant, with a little feisty mixed in to keep things interesting.
I will never forget the day she allowed herself to be vulnerable in the safety of that little group. Between pauses to collect herself, fighting raw emotions brimming, she shared truly painful pieces of her back story, some wounds sliced and gaping open afresh that very week. Her bright eyes glistened with tears as she described the burden she felt for the very ones who pierced her heart – longing for them to know the Savior at any cost. Yielding to God’s perfect plan to reach them, even if she would be hurt in the process. Her pain was palpable. Our hearts broke with hers.
The group surrounded her with the very truth she had poured into all of us. Without discussion, our conversation for that week’s passage was put aside so we could lay hands on her and just pray, crying out to God to hold and heal His daughter and draw the hearts of her loved ones to Himself. Not surprisingly, we ran late that day, closing our little gathering well past our usual time. There were hugs and tears and apologies for ugly crying, making a mess of any makeup we had applied that day.
BUT there was nothing ugly about it. I will never forget the true beauty of that day! One heart broken open to invite the rest of us in. One life, real and raw and still smarting from fresh wounds, yet willing to rest in the One who had given His own life to redeem ours. A trust so real, so deep that it leads her to willingly endure pain, so others can know the Savior.
How amazing to encourage her that every time she makes the choice to reach out again – to the very ones who continually cause her pain – she loves like Christ does! Knowing the cost, knowing the rejection, He chose to love anyway, to give anyway. She chooses again and again to love like He does, to risk her own heart to show them a love like His! It is not natural. It is not human. It is His heart reaching through hers. It isn’t pretty. Not even close. But it is incredibly beautiful!
She might have been about 4 years old. Our sweet daughter who lived in a happy bubble and moved to the beat of her own drum. We were gathered with a small circle of believers to remember the Lord Jesus on a Sunday morning. At the end of our time together, one of the men asked if he could play a new song he had heard that deeply touched his heart. He quickly set up a CD player and started the audio for “I Can Only Imagine,” by MercyMe.
Each of us seemed to get lost in our own thoughts as the lyrics played. In the blink of an eye, our sweet girl slid out of her chair and started dancing in the middle of our circle. Her eyes were closed, her lips in the sweetest smile, her arms raised and her little pink dress twirling and swooping along with the music.
My husband and I shot each other a glance of panic. Coming from very conservative backgrounds, this sort of thing just did not happen, and we feared she would disturb the others. But we were also afraid of causing a bigger scene in trying to stop her. In truth, I now believe that His Spirit restrained us. We just watched and adored along with her.
At the end of our morning, one of the elders approached us. We took a deep breath, not sure what he would say. With a big smile, he simply said, “THANK YOU for not stopping her. That was the purest form of worship I have ever seen! The spontaneous and genuine response of a child’s heart to the thought of seeing Jesus!”
It might have been unusual, awkward, nerve wracking!! But it was stunningly beautiful, and we will never forget it!
How interesting that the most beautiful moments are NOT scripted, are usually unexpected, unplanned, and often horribly inconvenient. But thank the Lord, most of us have an innate ability to recognize their value and allow time to stand still while we drink in their authenticity. Sadly, it has been a few years since I have thought about either occasion… until recently, when I was reading Christine Hoover’s new book, “Searching for Spring: How God makes all things beautiful in time.”
Life is hard. And complicated. And painful. But can it also be beautiful?
Tracing threads through the whole of scripture, drawing observations from current events, history and the arts, as well as her own personal experiences, Christine challenges our definition of beauty. Maybe the way we characterize beauty is not always accurate or complete. She encourages her readers to redefine beauty, to look for deeper, truer beauty in the most unlikely seasons of life.
Where do we see the hand of the Creator at work? The unmistakable touches of His design that reassure us He is still there, that hope is not lost? What is He creating and redeeming and recreating all around us and IN us – especially when circumstances don’t change and His answer to our prayers is not to fix what we think needs to be fixed – that draws our hearts to know Him more intimately?
Is it possible to reach a point where we recognize the Lord’s kindness in leaving some circumstances unchanged, because of the beautiful work He is doing in our hearts in the midst of those challenges? Can it really move us to gratefulness? Is it possible to treasure those dark places where faith is birthed, where we receive courage and strength so freely from Him (because our arms are raised and open in desperation)? Can the depths of despair actually lead us to HOPE rising, with a surge that cannot be denied?
Standing over the heating vent, watching through her window for signs of spring, Christine says, “Yes!” … That “yes” may start as a whisper, but grows in strength as His Spirit moves our hearts to dare to believe what we cannot see, but trust in because His Word has promised it!
When we walk through the darkest of valleys, can we have courage to believe in and watch for the beauty God is creating? Can we dare to imagine that what He is doing IN us during those seasons can nurture creativity FROM us? Again, Christine confidently says, “Yes!”
Building on a fresh appreciation of true beauty, Christine redefines creativity as well. She describes how our Master/Potter ignites something within us to create beauty in response to His, a pure beauty that (1) reflects His heart, (2) is an outpouring of worship to Him, and (3) becomes an avenue to love and serve others and cause them to wonder at our Creator! There is a purity in that kind of creative process that is not tainted with self-ambition. The focus of anything we produce should only, ever, always be our great God and Savior!
As Christine’s thoughts reach the anticipated climax of spring arriving, she rests in a bolder place of expectation… of the promised beauty we can’t possibly comprehend that still awaits us in the here and now, but ultimately in our secure ever-after in glory with our Savior.
If I am honest. I have been in a long season that feels a lot like an unending winter. But Christine has reached through these pages to help me see a truer, fuller picture of the beautiful masterpiece my Savior is orchestrating. She has encouraged my heart to shift my prayers from rescue to altered vision. I don’t want to miss anything He longs to show me in this place, anything He is creating in me here, or anything He will lead me to create from this journey!
May any season I walk through cause me to wonder at my Creator, to watch expectantly for the pure beauty He fashions… and inspire me to reach out to others in a way that causes them to be lost in wonder of Him as well!
If you are struggling to make sense of a long hard season, “Searching for Spring” by Christine Hoover (published by Baker Books, 2018) may help you treasure that very season and trust more confidently in the One who offers to walk through it with you… and to create true beauty from it… in you and with you!
photo credit: David C. Hamilton Photography
* trusting JESUS in any season
* watching for the beauty He promises
* pausing to drink in its authenticity
* creating to express and ignite wonder of Him
Read more here…
Ephesians 2:10 ~ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Psalm 139:14 ~ I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Isaiah 61:3 ~ He will bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy 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.
Ezekiel 16:14 ~ “You are perfectly beautiful because of My splendor with which I have clothed you,” declares the Sovereign LORD.
Psalm 45:1 ~ Beautiful words stir my heart. I will recite a lovely poem about the King, for my tongue is like the pen of a skillful poet.