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.

A train journey

I sit on the train, staring out of the window at the countryside speeding past me. Trees, flowers, lakes, hills. So much beauty. So much creativity. I love the patterns that the combination of cloud and sun creates on the green grass in front of me. But only for a millisecond. It races past and I find myself seeing picture after picture, landscape after landscape. Some prettier than others, some more inspiring than others.

We stop at a station and I’m filled with interest at another part of life. People flood onto the train. Different people with different faces, minds, stories. I don’t know them, don’t know who they are, what they’re thinking. Except for the lady who’s just missed the train. I think I can guess her thoughts.

We start moving again and I delight in watching other people. I give them names and lives. I write stories for them. And yet I know that I can never capture them. They are as complicated as I. They have tastes, dreams, thoughts, whole lives that I can never imagine. The smallness of my mind, of my imaginings amazes me. I could sit here all day and ponder one person and I wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Some people are frustrated by how much humans still don’t know. I can see why but it doesn’t frustrate me. It excites me. I love learning. The thought of getting to the end of knowledge is a scary thing. A sad thing. That’s why I love that I serve a God who is unfathomable. I love the thought that we can spend forever learning more about him and never get to the end. If you think you’re clever, look at God. If you think you know a lot, look at God. It’s humbling and inspiring. Know your limits. Know your weakness. Know your potential. Know your God.