Beautiful Creatures

I cannot get away from the idea that life is an expression of God’s beauty and that his most beautiful work is our very lives. It continues to cast reflections upon my heart and mind as I go about my day.

I made mention of this briefly in my last post, but I must elaborate. Two weeks ago, the thought struck me that the words I write are sacred, but I realize now it goes much deeper: Everything I do is sacred. All that I say and do matters: All that you say and do matters. This is because, from Heaven’s perspective, all things matter.

Every star in the Universe is known by name. The very number of hairs on your head are numbered. Every tear you shed is collected by God; every thought you think is known before it is said. And you and I: We were created to be a reflection of His beauty.

I really hope to convey this idea without it becoming in the minds of my readers yet another “have to” in the course of life. We do not “have to” find a way to reflect God’s beauty; this essay is not a “have to” lesson.

With the events that have transpired in my life in the past several weeks, I realize I am way beyond “have to.” I am at the very heart of “need,” with an occasional wandering into “want” and “desire.” “Have to” is the farthest thing from my mind right now.

Which — if you ask me — is a very, very good thing. And I wish the same for you. For there is something precious about life that has nothing — and I mean nothing — to do with “have to.” Life, if you are willing to accept it, has everything to do with “need”, “want” and “desire.” That is, It is about what we, as human beings, ultimately need. And more and more I realize it is about coming before God and pouring our hearts out before Him with all that we want and desire. We were simply not created for obligation; we were created for passion.

Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” And he answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22). The interesting thing about this commandment that we often overlook is that it is absolutely impossible to fulfill it by adopting a life of obligation. I cannot oblige my way into love. I can only fall in love.

And when I fall in love, I am not thinking about “have to” at all. I am thinking about another person, and how I can lay down my life for that person. I am thinking about spending every moment with that person. I am thinking about opening my heart wide, coming to know them just as I wish to be known. This is love.

So when I think about the fact that everything you and I say and do matters and and that we were created to be a reflection of His beauty, I am not thinking about obligation; I am thinking about love. I am thinking about being loved, and being in love. And I am thinking how that is possible with God because of Jesus demonstrating to us the greatest act of love the world has ever known.

That by humbling himself and becoming flesh and willingly taking all my sins upon Himself — taking my place to die on a Cross that I might be found innocent before God the Father — He demonstrated a love so profound that every other expression of love we see in this life is but a dim reflection.

I cannot help but think of the woman in the Bible who poured out an alabaster jar of precious perfume upon Jesus’ head and washed his feet with her tears. Professor Brian S. Chan of Biola University is quick to point out three things Jesus says in response to this. He says, first of all, that this woman has done this in preparation for His burial. He also says that wherever the Gospel is preached, what she has done will also be told. Most importantly, He says this woman has done a beautiful thing.

When we are in love, we are inclined to do beautiful things. And if I think, “I am afraid I am not in love with God,” then I must recognize this is not a deficiency but an opportunity. For we love by first being loved. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4). We love by coming to know the God who is love, whose love is unfathomable, whose mercy is inexhaustible. We love not by trying to love but by falling in love.

And when we do, we cannot help but love in return. We become beautiful creatures. And though it may not be our goal, the world takes notice.


Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

Life is Beautiful

 

My five-year-old granddaughter Anna, who was close to my wife Catherine (who, as many of you know, passed away unexpectedly this month), was over with her mom and dad to celebrate the college graduation of my daughter (her aunt). There were about thirty people at the house and this house is not big, so there was lots going on.

Suddenly, Anna says to me from across the room, “Grandpa! I see something in this house that was not here before!” And with that, she walks over to an end table beside me where the guest book and brochure from Catherine’s memorial service had been placed on display. The brochure had Catherine’s photo on it.

“Yes, that’s Grandma,” I said. I waited to see what her response would be — and so did her dad, not far away. Several days before, Anna’s mom had explained to her that her grandmother had gone to be with Jesus in Heaven, and that God would surround her with other family members who loved her, and they would take Grandma’s place till we all saw her again. Anna had taken the news seriously but with surprising acceptance. But our journey through this loss has just begun, and today was a new day.

Anna studied the photo for a bit, then turned to her dad and said, “Isn’t today just wonderful?” And then she proceeded to take two flowers that had been attached to one of her aunt’s gift bags and place them carefully on the book stand, just above Catherine’s photo.

It has been a little over three weeks now since my wife Catherine passed, and as you might guess, many, many people who loved her and who love me have reached out and asked how I am doing. It has been difficult to answer with any form of honesty or credulity, not because I am too devastated to form the right response, but rather because of the opposite. How I, and my children, are doing has been a rich composite of many tears but also of unspeakable joy.

It has been characterized by unprecedented vulnerability and unexpected strength. It has been a tender marriage of both unprecedented grief and unfathomable grace. It has been a college graduation without mom here, but with sweet little Anna placing flowers next to her photo and declaring, for all the world to know, that this day, even with its sorrow, is just wonderful.

So my response to my loved ones, if it were a text message, would be simple and concise, amounting to four words: Life is still beautiful.


Photo by Jarl Schmidt on Unsplash