The teddy bear from my childhood was a garage sale item. His name was Joshua. He had a jingle bell in his ear. He was nothing fancy, and by the time he was mine, more than a little hair had been rubbed off. He was not a beautiful plush animal by any stretch of the imagination. He was a silly old bear and I adored him.
I remember reading Joshua "The Velveteen Rabbit" with tears in my eyes. That book is still a favorite, and I have discovered a new way of framing why it touches in my heart. It introduces and explains why when someone is loved...truly, deeply and from a pure heart...they can't ever be ugly again. Never! Love...because of our scars and the thread bare places...sees no ugly. Love makes us real.
The Germans and the French have a phrase for it. Yes...the "no-nonsense" of the Germans (I have some of that in my bloodline) and the French who have been called "in love with love"... and they prove it by the value they place on beauty, art and poetry. Both cultures...so different...but both have a phrase for the "ugly-beautiful".
This quote is from Ann Voskamp,
“The wrinkled man in the wheelchair with the legs wrapped, the girl with her face punctured deep with the teeth marks of a dog, the mess of the world, and I see - this, all this, is what the French call d'un beau affreux, what the Germans call hubsch-hasslich - the ugly-beautiful. That which is perceived as ugly transfigures into beautiful. What the postimpressionist painter Paul Gauguin expressed as 'Le laid peut etre beau' - The ugly can be beautiful. The dark can give birth to life; suffering can deliver grace.”
Isn't it true? Deep thoughts for a Monday, I know. Still...I know in my hear that this one of the great secrets of understanding that a life lived in gratitude is a life fully lived. It is a soul that can withstand any storm.
In the toughest times, when we let go of anger and accept the grief... of what was or might have been...we find ourselves in a different place. When we learn to accept what is here... in this moment... with a thankful (even though breaking) heart, we step into the light. We feel His light that warms us and protects us. His Sovereignty doesn't lessen his love. Never confuse what God allows with what he finds pleasure in giving.
Job...outside of Jesus... is our best Biblical example. He had his depressed moments...but his grace through suffering is a beautiful example of broken praise. Broken and beautiful... His understanding of God is the real deal. Brokenness opens our hearts to understanding and fully living.
You see...we can come to understand that the beauty of this life is most often found in seasons of brokenness. When we come to a place of broken surrender to a Sovereign God we discover the strangest sense of peace.
This world can't buy peace. It isn't for sale...it is a gift.
Jesus, in John 14:25-31 tries to prepare his disciple for tough times ahead as he knows the cross is before him:
The disciples didn't understand the magnitude of what was to come. He tries, but they are in the midst of miracles and teachings. They believe Jesus will be raised to a King's status.
He will be raised up...and crowned "king" but not in the way they anticipate of the heels of so many miracles.
Still, Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for the "ugly-beautiful" that is to come. He promises them the Holy Spirit to comfort, teach, instruct and guide. They only know him as a tangible teacher and can't fathom life without him. Their world was about to be shaken and their love tested.
Jesus keeps his promises. He did then...and he does today. I love it when he says, "Rise let us go from here."
Satan whispers that to surrender to love is dangerous. It leaves the heart unprotected. He plants the seeds of fear that we might die from a broken heart if something goes wrong. His Evilness implies that we must always guard our hearts against deep trust and deep communion with others as a means of protection. He loves a prenuptial agreement. He loves to plant the seeds of doubt and to convince us that protecting ourselves is "common sense." The prince of darkness celebrates the piece of our souls that we hold back so that we never fully live in the beauty and grace of a genuine love. He is a coward and the author of fear.
What if we choose gratitude and grace in the darkest places...including and most importantly in the valley of the shadow of death? I firmly believe that only a great love can truly know great grief...but it is worth the price. I wouldn't trade the bottle of tears for the joy of loving and being loved in return...even if the time seems too short. Eternity is long...and it is written in the heart of man, in His hand. He breathed into us with our soul breath.
Today, I pray that our hearts will be open to the wonder of his grace and mercy that found in all things. From the joy at the birth of a child...to the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one. Life is complicated but simple. It is messy. It is ugly-beautiful.