On beauty

I find lots of different things hard. But one hard thing that keeps coming back, time and time again, is the hard thing of beauty.
The other day a nurse came into my hospital room, saw our wedding picture which I had on the wall and commented on how different I looked. It was a throwaway comment. But it’s one that I went into the bathroom and cried about. It’s one that I just can’t get out of my mind. Because it’s true. On our wedding day I did look different. CF didn’t affect me in the same ways as it does now. One month after our wedding I picked up MRSA, got a lot more ill and things have changed hugely since then. I’ve been on antibiotics which yellow my teeth, I’ve moved from osteopenia to osteoporosis, when I’m on IVs my hair starts to fall out, my skin gets dry and more translucent, my back hunches over more and more, a reaction to an anti-sickness tablet had far-reaching effects and the list goes on. And then I have the PEG, the port and oxygen tubes which are all external reminders.

I look in the mirror and see Cystic Fibrosis. I see the difference from my peers. I see who I used to be and the changes that make me who I am now. And it hurts so much. So many small things, stripped away. Making me ever weaker and realising all the more my need for a God who sustains and strengthens in different ways.

God is an artist. He sculpts and creates us. But I’ve come to realise that God is an artist who specialises in mosaics. Beautiful things made out of broken pieces. The breaking is hard but slowly, piece by piece, we are refashioned into something more interesting, more faithful and more beautiful.

I certainly feel that way. I’ve been broken many times and in many ways. But as each hard thing, like a rock, breaks down yet another part of me that I thought was good or pretty or useful, I see God picking up the pieces, reshaping them and rebuilding me.

I struggle to learn this lesson. Every now and then I hear a comment or glance in the mirror and all the sad, ugly feelings come rushing back. But this is just another step in the upside-down Gospel journey. What seems like weakness, is built up into strength. What seems like failure, is success far greater than this world can imagine. And what looks like ugliness, is transformed into beauty.

That’s the truth. And even the truth itself is beautiful.

The joining of worlds

It feels like a clash of worlds.

It’s a beautiful day. One that sings the song of Life so loudly. It’s a day where the Creator’s love for us is perfectly clear. 
‘Look,’ He says, ‘See the happy children playing in paddling pools, feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, hear the birds having the time of their lives, smell the heady scent of the flowers in bloom. Here is my Love for you. Here is a piece of Glory for you. Here is Beauty in abundance. Here I Am.’
But inside my body, the consequences of sin make themselves known. I am ill. Even on such a day as this. My Life song stumbles out of my mouth with halting breaths, quietly and slowly. And the Creator’s love feels so far away. He created this body, this frail, weak thing. Why? What was the point? And in the silence, in the confusion and in the questions, the answer comes.
‘Look,’ He says, ‘My power is made perfect in weakness. Here is my Love for you. Here is a piece of Glory for you. Here is Beauty in abundance. Just for you. Here I Am.’
For all the joy of a summer’s day, I can bring a greater smile to my Father’s face. For all my weakness, I have a great task. I am loved. I am made glorious. I am made beautiful. And I will strive to see the Glory in my weakness. As easily as I can see the Glory in the beautiful day. Because it is given to me and asked of me.
It feels like a joining of worlds. The glorious day and the glorious task. Made one through the Creator who calls all things to glorify his Name.