Beauty out of Ugly Things

All feels intact in my world this moment when our hands are joined, encircled around the dinner table and we bow our heads and speak words of gratitude to God
for food,
and company,
and life,
and whatever else comes to mind…..
And the sixth seat is occupied.

Contented mama sighs.

While it’s not my brown haired firstborn keeping it warm on Thursday nights anymore, it’s younger sister’s blonde haired buddy who routinely adds her delightful presence to the chaos before a rousing evening of square dancing with the old folks at the Senior Citizen Center.

“Why is it so important to me to fill every chair?” I muse. I’m happy to add the piano bench too. More is better but less is unsettling– sad even…..

I project forward and imagine fewer seats with warm bodies in them. And contentment goes south replaced by heaviness in my chest momentarily. Then I’m interrupted by banter ramping up around the table.

One kid says, “The guacamole is great tonight. What’d you do different?” While another chimes in, “Can I have another taco?” Robyn interjects randomly, “I think 75 is the perfect age.”   “And, I hope everyone I love dies at the same time so I don’t ever have to be sad.” Wow, Robyn. You got 2 whole sentences in a row set out without interruption. Amazing! Then, there it is, the next free flow of consciousness expressed as the youngest emphatically states, “It is biblical truth that Sunday is the first day of the week!”

In the course of 30 seconds we’ve covered all the basics–food, the Bible and life…. Meanwhile, I’m half listening to the Bluetooth speaker in the background playing,

….Pain has come and taught us to fear.
We’re gonna need some grace now to fill the air.
…….We need eyes to see
How You’re working beauty even out of ugly things.

You break me to bind me.
You hurt me, Lord, to heal me.
You cut me to touch me.
You died to revive me.

 You do all things–You do all things well.
Father, You do.
You do all things well.
(Tenth Avenue North: You Do All Things Well)

And I am distracted by thoughts of
The mom I know with 3 teenagers, cancer and a broken leg all at the same time,
The single dad caring for 3 young children while his wife is in addiction rehab and my friend raising 2 boys alone because her ex changed his mind about the definition of a marriage covenant,
Innocent children turned adults, gnarled and twisted in their sexual identity as a result of abuse,
The delightful 3 year old in my music class with a port in her chest for chemotherapy,
Unrelenting Depression pummeling body and soul more than one person I love,
Orphans in Haiti who long to go home with forever families but can’t because paperwork has to be processed by lazy, corrupt politicians,
Marriages stuck in “winter but never Christmas”,
And my own girls groaning through their own growing pains—physically and emotionally as they metamorphise into womanhood,
And all the waiting, which wearies me most….
Plus, the long list of daily annoyances that grind on my nerves like traffic jams, never ending errands, home repairs and drought.

I find myself in a silent but animated conversation with God while the banter at the table becomes white noise.
And I ask, “Really God, Really are you doing all things well?”
“You break me—Yes, I can agree with that.”
“In order to bind me? Hmmm…. That sounds severe. Is that really necessary?” And then I reflect on my modus operandi for  life-my propensity to figure everything out myself, make my own way, forge my own path and I admit–Maybe it is. I guess we both know I’ll cut and run self-protecting my empty ambitions unless I’m securely attached to You.”

“You hurt me—Oh, I’ve been hurt all right.”
“In order to heal me? Maybe…..I guess I wouldn’t have known you were the great physician body, soul and spirit without all those pain receptors screaming for relief that only comes from your restorative care.”

“You cut me—And it’s not just blood that flows, it’s festering infection being exposed and released.”
“In order to touch me? ……Why would you even want to handle that mess?”
“You expose it to touch it? First, you clean me up. Then you place that bandage gently over my wound or carefully sew one stitch at a time. And it is your touch that sets my wound on a regenerative path.”

“And you do all things well?”
“Let me think about that….”, I say as if I am the judge of what is good…. Funny. Absurd even.

“You died—Yes, I believe that. You were broken, hurt and cut.”
“In order to revive me from my own spiritual death?”
“That’s the part that leaves me scratching my head.”
“Why would you do that? “
“God, that’s really not a very good deal for you.”
“You overpaid for what you got in return.”

And then I sigh and pause from all my silent speaking and listen. He responds tenderly,
“No, I got just what I wanted, just what I loved.”
“I got you.”
“And since I died to define love, I get to decide how that love is meeted out.”
“All that hard stuff you can’t make any sense of, I’m doing something in that too, making beauty out of ugly things- and you can trust me with it.”
“You can trust me with cancer
and depression
and single parenting
and hurting children
and broken marriages
and abuse
with traffic jams and droughts
and the never ending errands.
You can trust me when there are only 2 at the kitchen table and there is no banter and then maybe only one.
And you can trust when you’re 75 …..

And there I am again, this time sitting at my kitchen table, but my feet touching holy ground. He has met me and in that moment.  Faith trumps doubt and lament morphs into worship. Through the lens of my spiritual reading glasses, the ones God graciously placed over my eyes here amongst the chaos at dinner, clarity replaces a blur.
And like the song, I respond, “You are indeed working beauty out of ugly things.”
“I’m not sure when and how but I know that You really do-
All Things Well.”

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