As we sit on the beach, I watch my youngest as she hunts for shells. She races up to me, sharing her finds. Over and over she brings them to me, delighting in each of them as treasure:
“Mom, isn’t that orange color beautiful?”
“Look at the curves of this one, aren’t they pretty?
“Feel how smooth this shell is!”
“I love the stripes on this one.”
As I survey her pile, I realize that none of these shells are ones that I would have chosen. These are not the ones you’d set out on display. They are broken and chipped, each marred in some way. While my daughter notices the beauty, I see the brokenness. I observe what is missing, rather than seeing the remnant of loveliness that remains.
As I look at the shells, I realize each of us are a bit like them: broken and chipped in some way. We retain remnants of glory, but none of us retain the perfection we were created to display. It’s for this very reason our world is full of the greed, racism, terrorism, unkindness, anger, and all the other forms of brokenness we see each day (both on the news and in the mirror). Like these shells, even the best of us are too marred to be taken home and set out on display.
And yet, in the midst of all the bad news, there is hope. The good news of the gospel is that God is working to make us new. While these shells are broken without hope of returning to their former beauty, if we are in Christ, we are being gradually changed. Our outer selves may be wasting away, but our inner self is being renewed, day by day (2 Cor 4:16).
Just as my daughter noticed the individual beauty in each of her shells, it’s a hopeful endeavor to look for signs of God’s redeeming work in each other. In the midst of grieving our brokenness, we can also rejoice at the hints of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness that we see lived out in the body of Christ. By doing so, we display the paradox of being those who are sorrowful, yet rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10).
In their book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim and Kathy Keller discuss having this sort of expectant view:
It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, “I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”
Currently, we see hints of God’s work in the lives of those around us. May we encourage one another with the glimpses of beauty we see. One day, He will take us home and we will shine radiantly, set on display for His glory:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 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 (Is 61:1-3, NIV, italics added).
Ashes exchanged for beauty. Grieving turned to gladness. A garment of praise instead of despair. This is our God. He makes all things new.