Hidden Beauty

hidden beauty Today I lend this space to Melody Armstrong, a member of our Westside community. This is her reflection.

It is a profound thing to be known. Deeply known. When Jeremiah was a young boy, God told him: “Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: a prophet to the nations -- that’s what I had in mind for you.” [Jeremiah 1:5, The Message Bible]

Many of us are very careful in what we disclose about ourselves. Sometimes it feels too risky to be truly known; we’re not sure we can trust.  When we let people in, we risk getting hurt. We risk them misunderstanding us.  We risk them not reciprocating.

The good news is that we are known to God.  He sees us, regards us, even treasures us. He knows our name -- not just the name we answer to -- but our truest identity. It is a wonderful gift to see ourselves through his gracious eyes, to realize the beauty of his design in us.

Yesterday was an unbelievable March day. A warm sun thawed the heavy snow that had only recently covered everything. I grabbed my camera and headed out for a walk.  I am usually inclined to look out at the vast beauty of the landscape, but on this day I trained my camera on the items I tend to miss, the things under my feet and along my path. I ended up spending a good deal of time on my knees, taking pictures of the intricate details that revealed themselves beneath my more intentional gaze.

Along the edge of a nearby river, a huge, old piece of gnarled wood lay half frozen under the ice.  With an eye out for “hidden beauty,” I decided to take a closer look. After laying in the snow and shooting images from every possible angle, my jeans were soaked and I was beaming. I had found beauty. I had found an original masterpiece.  The patterns and designs in that lone piece of wood were mesmerizing.  I whispered my “thank you,” overwhelmed by God’s lavish creativity, how he can afford to hide such beauty in places that most of us never see.

And then I thought about how he stops and notices me. And you. Almost certainly he sees intricate design. Almost certainly he notices unique beauty, even in those parts of me that at times feel like dead wood, without value, fallen, cast aside. I may feel stuck on the edge of things, half-buried – but he takes special notice.

I see that old piece of wood as a symbol of our life in Christ, but with an important distinction.  We are not dead, but alive, “abiding in the vine,” grafted into the main branch that is Christ, the life-giver. We are never just dead wood, cast aside.  Sure, there are places in all of our lives that seem pointless, purposeless, and even dead.  There are parts of us where beauty seems completely absent. God knows better. He looks at us differently. The maker of all things beautiful sees our truest selves, and through his creative artistry finds a way to make even the worn out, broken places of our lives beautiful once again.

Thank you for listening to my story.  Enjoy the photo.

Melody Armstrong