The world is such a beautiful place!
I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors this summer and I’ve been taking a lot of pictures. I’ve noticed that, when I have my camera, I see things I would otherwise miss: sunlight landing on a child’s face, a butterfly crawling on a flower, a church steeple silhouetted against the darkening sky at dusk, the twinkle in my aging dogs’ eyes. Beauty is all around us. I’ve heard that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” but have come to see that many of us miss that beauty because we’re not very good at “beholding.” Beauty is inside of us, too. God has filled us with wonderful gifts like love and compassion, but we sometimes forget that. We’re usually hard on ourselves. We are often our own worst critic. We sometimes beat ourselves up after we do something wrong and can be unduly harsh. We can even lose sight of our “inner beauty” when people hurt us or when they try to get us to look at ourselves with a warped perspective.
Phipps Conservatory is a beautiful place to visit when you’re in Pittsburgh, PA. The displays are constantly being tended by people who have an eye for beauty. You can see a wide variety of orchids, cacti, bonsai trees, and other flowers in just a short period of time. I captured this shot of a butterfly the last time I visited Phipps. The Conservatory had converted a large room into a butterfly sanctuary. Beautiful butterflies were emerging all around me. All I needed to do was “stop and see the butterflies.” And the same thing is true for all of us every day. Take some time, today, to “see the butterflies” that are all around you.
Many people in the church talk about something called the “image of God.” The Bible says that people were originally created in the “image of God” – but that the “image of God” (that God gave to us) was irreparably shattered when things fell apart. Christians say that people “sin” because they live in a “broken” state. Christians say that “sin” is not simply a long list of the things we do wrong – “sin” is actually a “state-of-being” that causes us to do things that are wrong. We are “broken” and in need of healing. But, the fact that we are “broken” doesn’t mean that we can’t be “beautiful,” too. We still have the capacity of love each other and to display mercy. We can still make lasting commitments to each other and stand together. We can be people who bring-out the best in others and who lift them up to new heights. We can forgive – speak a healing word – help other people to see that they’re “beautiful” – and look-past what’s “shattered” in order to embrace what’s “whole.”
One of the things we need to realize, when we’re on a journey of healing, is that people who “hurt” us do not “destroy” us. People can physically hurt our bodies and shape our perspectives with their harsh words, but they can’t destroy the “beauty” of our souls. We need to realize that the “beauty” that God pours into our hearts doesn’t just “disappear” when we’re hurt. We are still valuable people. We continue to be people who can be cherished by others and who can live a good life. We do not stop being “beautiful” simply because we experience the “bad behavior” of mean-spirited people. No one has the “right” to tell us who we are – but God.
And so, the next time you are stunned by the beauty of something you see, take a few moments to remember that you are beautiful, too. Take a few moments to remember that there is an untouchable part of your soul that is beautiful and that that part of you cannot be destroyed by the bad behavior of others. Your ability to love and express compassion are treasures that God has given to you. Your desire to have a “good life” – even after you’ve been hurt – is a sign that you haven’t been forever-destroyed and that, in fact, God’s still at work to create something good in your life. Be gentle with yourself. Focus upon things like love and compassion, mercy, and your commitments to the people who are important to you. You may have been “hurt” – but you haven’t been “destroyed.” Always remember that the “beauty” is still there!
(To see some of the beauty of the Phipps Conservatory’s 2012 Spring Flower show – please take a few moments to watch the video that I recently created.)