I bought an Amazon book, based on a review by a fellow blogger, which just may be the best and most beautifully written book I've ever read. It is so beautiful that I wish I could memorize the whole thing like a Psalm....I hate to let any of it go...I hate ending one sentence and going on to the next because I don't want the poetry of her words to end. It's called. One thousand Gifts...a Dare to live Fully Right Where you Are by Ann Voskamp. It may be best suited to the poetic soul of a woman, but it so excellent that it can't fail to have universal appeal.
The author comes from a place of early tragedy and loss which left her hating her life...and one day has a revelation brought on by a nightmare...that leads her to pursue what it means to live a full life...one that is ready to face God without disaster at the end of it. She touches on the topics of suffering, loss and the Sovereignty of God....and then works her way to Gratitude, Grace and joy, all three of which are contained in the roots of the Greek word Eucharisteo which is the word used when Jesus gave thanks for the broken bread. The book talks about how to live the Eucharist. She uses numerous quotations from many sources of religious literature and her conclusions and approach would have appeal and relevance to anyone of any faith…
The book, while not difficult to read, contains many deep, inexhaustible truths all encapsulated in sentences so consummately elegant that you wish there were frames in which to put phrases to hang them on a wall to admire. Instead you can merely repeat them over and over, tasting them on the tastebuds of your heart and savoring their exquisite flavor.
As a person who has suffered deeply and greatly in my life, I can affirm personally the truth of the conclusions at which Ann Voskamp arrives. There is no fluffy, trite theology here...It is blood and guts reality discussed in a manner which allows you to see the Beauty in the Ugliness of Life. And shining through it all is the face of a beautiful, loving, and sovereign God.
I would be wondering why and how it is that this book and I have not met sooner--as it seems to be so very much 'down my alley'...but I know that God reserved it, like a special gift, for just this very moment of my life. The book does not require much of a time commitment because it is so jam - packed with God and beauty that you can only tolerate it in one or two page chunks...or your soul would explode.
This is one of the lines from that book; one that most people might pass right over—it is fairly innocuous—but it stopped me like thunder...because it is the soul-song of my life. The first part of the sentence I've pretty much "gotten" over the past three years...but I am just recently growing up into the latter part—and that journey of growing has taken me, oh, a mere….48 years?? And it will continue until my clock stops ticking.
When those two elements are true— (meaning true in our understanding, belief, and experience)...and I would add a third, "he is always working" (meaning there is always an omniscient purpose in everything he does) then a person can get through anything...anything, and not lose their faith...and not lose their hope.
They very much remind me of the words of a CMA pastor who was derailed by a mysterious, catastrophic illness and after he’d stabilized somewhat, was forced to step down from his pastorship, because his health was so destroyed. He stated in the first address he made to his congregation, struggling to breathe and to speak through his tracheotomy, (and I’ve made reference to this before in my blogs, if it sounds familiar to you,): “I don’t like the path I’m on, but God is in it and God is good.”
These are words that I’ve repeated to myself –oh probably a mere, 200+ times in the past several years since I first heard them. They have gotten me through many illness and indescribable daily pain…the relinquishment of my freedom and independence…and the admission that my future probably will not be a bright one (at least not in terms of strength or comfort or accomplishment). They’ve kept me from doing some desperate and stupid things in my attempts to avoid pain. They’ve kept me from the grip of despair and…if not put a smile on my face…they’ve at least kept me going on and not falling prey to hopelessness or the abandoning of my faith.
I could preach on and on about the lessons that suffering has brought my way…and especially now, in a hard time in my life, when they are so much in the forefront of my mind…but that is not the purpose for which I’m writing this post.
I’m writing it to say, as Ann Voskamp points out, there is BEAUTY shining right behind the visage of ugliness that our circumstances and surroundings often show to us. This beauty is BEAUTY - the face of our loving Lord –who took on ugliness so that we “might become Beauty” as Ann states it. He took it on in his appearance…in his poverty, in his circumstance…and tackled it head on in the faces and actions of those who hated him—who were really propelled by the personification of ugliness from the forces in hell itself.
An odd thought just occurred to me. If Jesus as Beauty is masked in ugliness and that which he uses is often ugly—in order to lure us to Beauty…then Satan is Ugliness, masked in beauty…and he uses beautiful lures, like artfully tied fly hooks…to catch us with their sharp barb and bring us to places of real ugliness. He knows that you catch flies with honey…but God will often feed us healthier, heartier…and more difficult to digest “food” through tough circumstances, illness, pain and suffering to make us really healthy, well grounded and STRONG in the face of whatever adversity brings our way. He does not buy our affection with gaudy toys, but instead carves them with sharp chisels from hard marble…polishes them with rough sanding…until we are firm, able to endure, and can shine with a real Beauty of soul and spirit without faltering, secure in the knowledge of his love and able to love him from bottoms of the strong foundation from which we are carved.
Thank you Ms. Voskamp for a truly powerful—and life-changing book, which is presented to us in such lyrical words and phrases; YOU used Beauty to portray Beauty.