Like down the street from my friend Thomas’ house in Brazil.
It’s just a normal street absent of any outstanding or attractive features. Yet, growing out of a small patch of unmowed grass along the side of his road is one of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen.
Now I admit, I love purple. Any shade or hue of it. Got that passion from my mom.
But this purple is so vivid, so bright…its utterly breathtaking. I was immediately smitten when I saw the picture of it on his Facebook page.
What struck me most was the stark contrast with the drab surroundings. Gray block walls. An unkempt strip of grass. A discarded wreck of a chair. Invasive old power lines. And a grafifitied phone dome someone painted to match!
There in that ordinary, banal setting is this beautiful Quaresmeira tree. Sprouting from nothing. Sharing its splendid color in spite of its setting.
Stark beauty in the most unlikely place. Strange, out-of-place, incompatible, delicate wonder.
I saw divine fingerprints gently smudging the picture. God’s MO…no, God’s DNA…shining through.
God specializes in creating beauty in the most drab and dank scenes of our lives.
His grace searches the dark corners and recesses of our souls where either the ordinary or the infamous is the backdrop and death is the atmosphere.
Then in fits of love the Master Gardener plants seeds in those mud pits that eventually grow into what an old prophet called, “the plantings of the Lord.” (Isaiah 63:3b)
What many see as useless ground, God chooses as fruitful soil. And out of those unpretentious, unspectacular places, comes strange beauty.
This, in point of fact, was Jesus’ job description:
-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,
-To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 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.
(Isaiah 63:1-3; Luke 4:18-19)
Isaiah wrote those words and 700 years later Jesus claimed them for himself.
It was the desire of Jesus’ heart to find the neglected places and make them His garden. So he came to them, tended them and brought beauty from their ashes.
- Bethlehem, the pititful small town…
- Nazareth, the sleezy army base…
- Jerusalem, the messy metropolis…
- Israel, the hated nation…
- Matthew, the immoral tax collector…
- Peter, the impulsive fisherman…
- James and John, the impetuous crusaders…
- Mary, the imbalanced Magdalene…
- Nicodemus, the overstudied religionist…
- Martha, the overachieving perfectionist…
- Zaccheus, the overcompensating financier…
- Bartimeaus, the overanxious blind man…
And then there was Lazarus. He was just, well…dead.
But into each of these bleak and hopeless circumstances, Jesus came.
He planted hope; nurtured peace and germinated life.
And what people saw was stark beauty…strange and earthy, but undeniably divine.
It is the ache of my frequently dark and often disordered heart to become such a place.
Where the stark contrast between grace and my barren, broken life draws the attention of every observer to the One who created the unimaginable.