I have been seeking to be more attentive to the joys of life all around me. There is good. There is beauty. There is awe and wonder. And if you are anything like me, you need to fight for it! As we get older, the things that produced awe and wonder in us when we were young, fade into the background as we get older.
So here are three recent events in my life that have moved me to deeper joy in this journey.
1. My daughter has recently started taking pictures with intention. And in her frames, I see the workings of the heart of a child. When did I stop noticing the beautiful flowers that often come with weeds? God sends me beauty, and I yank it up by the roots without as much as a passing admiration that he even takes the effects of the curse and gives it color!
I realize that as my daughter matures, she will become more choosy and selective about her photos. She will begin to conform to a more mature perspective of beauty that the world puts forth. But in her photographs I see the world through the eyes of a little girl. There are lots of flowers. There are lots of colors, there is not much attention to focus. But there certainly is a heart of admiration for the world she sees.
2. I went on a mini-retreat with a group of pastors in the Kalamazoo community. There is a patch of woods near Three Rivers, Michigan called the Hermitage where people can go to get away to slow down. While I was there I went for a long walk in the woods and when I came out of the woods into a clearing, the vision of wildflowers took my breath away. The open space was on fire with Black-eyed Susans, and many other varieties of weeds and flowers I cannot name, but can enjoy nonetheless.
What struck me most about this clearing is that this was once a flourishing forest that had been cleared a few years back to make room for a major gas line running through West Michigan. Not long ago, it was an ugly scar on the face of this beautiful property bisecting it into two beautiful wooded areas with an ugly gash in the middle. It was pressed on my heart, that God doesn’t leave ugliness for long. He makes beauty from piles of ashes. He is the healer of ugly. He is the one who takes the open wounds of our lives and closes them with hope, faith and joy. One day, all will makes sense for His children.
He will bring to beauty even the ugliest of our scars. He truly is working out good for those who love Him!
3. My middle son just wrapped up two weeks of hard labor. He detasseled corn (or the corns as we call it in our home). This is not work for the faint of heart. He had to wake up at 5:30 each morning, catch a bus and ride about an hour to a muddy corn field. Each morning the dew was thick and the temperature was cool. After just a few steps into a corn field in the morning your boots are already soggy and you wonder if you will ever dry out. By the mid morning, the sun begins to bake off the morning dew and the humidity rises to unreasonable levels. And the cold and wet of the early morning turns into the hot and dry of the blazing afternoons. Walking the length of a row of corn removing the top of every stalk is one thing, but doing it for eight hours a day becomes monotonous. And then there is the corn rash. I remember fields that seemed to never end.
And I never heard a single complaint. He bounced out of bed every morning. And he told me how many little Caesar’s pizzas he earned every afternoon when I picked him up (Luke measured his income in little caesars pizzas because he is a 14 year old boy).
My son has autism. And it has taken me so unreasonably long to come to grips with this. You would think I would’ve figured this out after 9 years of his having this diagnosis. But I see beauty in him. God uses this fallen world, to make beauty as only an artist truly can! And He is not a shabby artist. He takes the dark colors and the cheery colors, and with the skill of a fine artist makes a deep and rich reality. Then He shares that with us.
I am joyful in this life! I know that this is not all there is. He is making all things new. But my hope is for more than just holding out for the life that is to come. I will keep my eyes open for the joy in this journey.