I don’t think it’s an accident that the most beautiful things of this earth aren’t typically so in the predictable sense. The things that move us the most quite often involve a contrast of some type, an element of surprise.
Wildflowers creeping along a crowded highway.
The intricate wrinkles on my grandmother’s hands.
A quilt created entirely from scraps that sits on my bed.
Weeds left uncared for. Signs of aging and decay. Leftovers that otherwise had no use. Symptoms of the curse redeemed. Beauty rooted in what doesn’t seem to make sense.
Why is my heart captured by such things? Perhaps because this contrast is merely an echo of something greater. Perhaps because the face of beauty itself is described in this way.
…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
With wounds we are healed. Grace at its very core is a paradox. Something so costly, so undeserved, is given freely. A gruesome, torturous method of execution becomes the central icon for redemption. A story I’ve heard since I was a little girl continues to contain an element of mystery. My faith, my hope, and my peace secured, only because the righteous died for the unrighteous. Darkness and light, bondage and freedom juxtaposed. And all this was for our salvation.
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty,
Thy glory in my valley.
-The Valley of Vision, A Puritain Prayer-