I’ve always loved admiring beautiful things. Lately I have been noticing so much beauty all around me, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, dolphins swimming around my pier, the fruit hanging from our fruit trees, herons landing on the water behind my house, the sun shining down on my cat stretched out in front of the window soaking up the sunlight and so many other things. As I’ve come to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation it’s taken me deeper and deeper into worshipping the Creator of all the beautiful creation around me. Beauty surrounds us but in our haste to be productive and all of the stress that goes along with the hectic lives we all live, we can become blind to beauty and deaf to the Spirit of God speaking to us.
Certainly all of the things I mentioned above are easy for me to see as beauty, but I’m also learning that there is a special beauty in the imperfect…a beauty in the vulnerable and this is a beauty you see with your heart that can affect us in a way far deeper than the most spectacular sunsets can.
I could have so easily missed him and this moment (and it would have been such a loss), but I’ve paused from my hustle and bustle and I’m in waiting mode. He shuffles in the door of Starbucks as I’m making my way over to the line to place my tea order and I notice him right away. He’s an older gentleman, probably in his 60’s, and immediately my eye is drawn to him. He’s dressed very neatly, pressed light blue checked shirt tucked into jeans and hair nicely combed. My heart goes out to him as I watch him sway back and forth and struggle forward in the line and he seems relieved when he reaches a spot in front of a table that he can reach his hand back to stabilize his balance as he waits. Our eyes meet and I smile and say hello and he nods back at me as he wipes the corner of his mouth.
As I’m standing in line behind him, I’m struck with the thought that this man who is obviously struggling with a physical disability is a man nonetheless. What are his thoughts? What is his life? Is he happy or perhaps often discouraged by his lot in life…the hand he’s been dealt? He doesn’t seem unhappy. He seems at peace and calm. As he reaches the counter I see the cashier’s face light up with a smile as she greets him. She greets him by name but I miss his name. As he pulls out a Starbucks gift card to pay I hear her say, “oh, did all of your friends and family give you Starbucks cards?” He smiles and nods as he hands her the card and one of the other ladies is already carrying his order to the table, because they know this man and they care about him. They don’t want him stumbling with a hot cup of coffee. They truly see him and value him, and I know, this is what keeps him coming back to this place and why his friends and family give him Starbucks gift cards for Christmas. He’s treated with dignity here. He’s cared about, and in this place, he is a valued human being….and I can see that his disability is actually bringing out the best in these workers.
Purpose Through Imperfection
My whole life I’ve struggled with this desire to fix whatever problem those I love are struggling with, because my automatic response is to want to end their pain. Through the years I’ve learned that I can’t fix everyone’s problems or even my own often times, and that has forced me to turn from self-reliance to God-reliance. God’s been teaching me that there is beauty in struggle and yes even beauty in suffering. As I’ve walked through my own pain and struggles I’ve begun to see the opportunities this creates for myself and others. I tried so hard for so long to be perfect and dealt with a lot of self-hatred when I couldn’t live up to my impossible standards and along the way God began to show me just how much he loves me in all of my imperfections. He sees all of my inner wounds and scars and loves me as only a father can….even better then an earthy father can, in fact. In fact, He sees me as beautiful. Along the way as I have struggled, like that gentleman in Starbucks, I have had to reach out and take help from others.
For a long time, I had such a hard time asking for help and receiving help. It was incredibly humbling and went against inner vows I had made that I would be self-sufficient. However, it was also very freeing, because self-reliance and perfectionism are a prison.
Strength and self-reliance can isolate a person and close the door to beautiful things God wants to do. There is this interconnection and beauty as we, in our weakness, have to open our hand to receive gifts of help. It requires vulnerability and can shatter us in ways we need to be shattered, because maybe we’re a little too hard. Maybe all of that strength that we think is holding us together is also shutting out the love that we can receive, feel and give to others.
As I watch the faces of the ladies serving the Starbucks customer with joy, I’m also struck by how our strength and self-reliance can deprive others of moments to serve that bring them such joy.
I place my order, pay, look the waitress in the eye and smile as I tip her and hope that I can be a vessel to pour out love that will bring others joy and acceptance on a level like she has clearly been able to do. As I walk away I know I have witnessed something special, and I thank God that He gave me that moment to see and hear Him speak to me through what I have witnessed.
Lord, help us to see others and ourselves how you see us. Help us to always be mindful that in the midst of all of our differences, we are all the same in one important way. We are your creation…each of us created with a special purpose for our life, and we are all called to be worshippers of you Lord. Help us to always have eyes wide open to see opportunities you place before us, and as we serve those around us help us to see that this is a form of worship to you as we recognize the value and purpose of all of your creation.
Scriptures for Meditation
~ Isaiah 61:1-3
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
~ Romans 12:9-13
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
~ John 15:11-13
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
~ Galatians 5:13
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
~ Romans 12:1
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
~ 1 Peter 4:10