. . . .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 the spirit of despair. . . . (Isaiah 61:3 – NIV)
Have you ever considered what goes into making a person, place or work of art beautiful? While we might consider the finished product beautiful, I doubt we would consider all of the individual ingredients comprising the product beautiful. Women the world wide apply cosmetics, but how many women know that some cosmetics contain urea (extracted from urine), whale vomit and human foreskins? (I consider myself to be a bit creative, but never in a million years could I have fabricated this list of ingredients on my own!) Ladies, think about that the next time you’re offered a free sample at the cosmetic counter in your favorite department store! All things that ultimately become beautiful do not start out that way.
I live in Pittsburgh, an area not known for its picturesque sunsets. However I recently snapped the photo that accompanies this post at a recent outdoor concert there. Even the performing act, the jazz group Spyro Gyra, took notice. Jay Beckenstein, the group’s leader, had just finished remarking how extensively the group had traveled during their 37 year tenure. During that time they no doubt has seen a number of breathtaking and awe inspiring sights. Yet the sunset arrested Beckenstein in his tracks and caused him to remark on the beauty of the sunset. He even encouraged concertgoers to turn 180 degrees away from the stage to view the gorgeous sky.
What contributed to the conditions that allowed for this painted sunset? – The ingredient lay in the series of powerful rainstorms that passed through the area just several hours previously. Jay Beckenstein chalked up this bit of atmospheric alchemy to nature. I attributed it the God who created the sky, calling forth cosmos out of chaos. Just as the Lord can transform black skies into beautiful sunsets, he can give us beauty for our ashes.
Study the lives of any of God’s fair saints and you will find something grotesque that contributed to their comeliness. The Apostle John was visited by an angel and was inspired to write the book of Revelation while exiled on the isle of Patmos. Martin Luther translated the New Testament from Latin into German while confined at the Wartburg Castle. It was John Bunyan’s imprisonment that produced the classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress. Joni Eareckson Tada suffered a diving accident as a teenager leaving her a quadriplegic. She transformed this tragedy into triumph and launched a ministry called Joni and Friends, inspiring millions and providing wheelchairs to the disabled in the third world.
God did not reserve this type of harsh treatment exclusively for his followers, but saved its greatest application for his own son, Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53:5 states, “But he [Jesus Christ] was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed!” (NLT). The grisly death that Christ died on the cross granted us access to the Father. The rough-hewn Roman cross upon which Jesus was crucified has morphed into a symbol of life and has become synonymous with the Christian life.
Jesus invites you to give him the ugly and marred parts of your life and he will perform a divine extreme makeover. This metamorphosis will not likely be instantaneous, but trust your life into the hands of the Master. Allow the Lord to take the broken shards of the glass or your life and mold them into a kaleidoscope through which others will see the beauty of His grace in you.