All of it is begging to be unleashed. The wrestling of heaven and hell isn’t meant to be contained. I am marvelously good, wicked bad, and incredulously beautiful. So are you, but perhaps less reluctant than I.
The Good: brisk, cold tea with a shot of simple syrup and fresh mint. Babies - every single last one of them. Squishy two year old piggy pie toes. Deep belly boy laughs (snorts included). Discovering the tween years with your daughter where braids and boundaries coexist constantly. A confident teenage girl (it is possible). When the Holy Scriptures echo your exact moment, this is balm. A lone wildflower bursting among tree lined trails. Water: rivers, lakes, oceans. Savory Southern pot roast with carrots/onions/potatoes dripping in au ju on a chilly winter night, shared with friends and paired with a robust red. Stories over girls night then relived via endless group texts - the obnoxious texts that make you spit out your coffee in the carpool line. Family. Marriage. Home. Vacation. Ridiculously large underwater swim masks - ears bent and lips like a duck’s beak.
The Bad: Skeleton’s lurking in inaccessible closets. Reminders of the curse, well fashioned darts fired off by friends, family, ministers - the sharp shooters. Shame. Betrayals, the ones I committed. Slander slithering from my snake like tongue. Resentment. Anger. Hatred. Punishment. Manipulation, always self protecting. Death too soon, too tragic, too gruesome. Cancer. Sickness covering the whole house of God. Impaired movement and energy - glory hindered. Black fog depression - bed bound and oppressing an entire family. Sorrow by the tons with rows and rows of shark like teeth; I could only wish to be swallowed whole and avoid the bite. All the losses. Buried dreams and hallelujahs. Life deflecting numbness. Denial.
The Beauty: Resurrection: the union of good and bad working together toward ascent. The power to rise, even if only from bed to coffee pot. Beauty is perspective that only ascension can offer. Beauty is seeing with new eyes like blind Bartimaeus. Can I be honest with what I see and continue telling Yeshua, “I see people as trees”, until I’m healed whole? Can I be this curious? To keep telling The Christ, “I am only seeing halfway, help me fully see.” Do I merely take what I am given the first time and refuse to beg for more? Do I pretend to see, to live, to act like I have more than I really do? Bartimaeus was gut-level honest. To gain full healing, he essentially had to tell Jesus, “your healing didn’t work all the way the first time.” The audacity! How rude, how ugly, and what terrible manners. “You get what you get and don’t throw a fit, child.” Isn’t this what we say? Isn’t admitting what the lackluster parts of life, career, marriage, parenting, and singleness considered ungrateful? Isn’t admitting a desire for more ostentatious? Beauty is here, it is now among us, and it’s locked inside of your good manners and cultural mores. We are terrified of real beauty because it is honest. Beauty is power, and it is very attractive. But Beauty costs. To see beauty IS to see grief, anger, lust, pain, sorrow juxtaposed with glory, goodness, gladness and joy.
Perhaps I was born to see the world a certain way, perhaps it was learned...nevertheless, I see ridiculous imperfections and “to-do’s” everywhere, but mostly within myself. And to admit that, to name it, to allow it, has felt like guilt gravy slathered on my soul for as long as I can remember. Perhaps my evangelical, Southern Baptist upbringing cultivated an avenue for control and continual self-improvement. Or, maybe it’s because I felt so incredibly out of control in my body, and at home, inside my own skin. I have always longed for an orderly, better-than way and this compulsion was esteemed in every institution I belonged to: family, church, school, sports, theatre, ministry. And while I craved order, chaos was a magnet - and this is a disease, a sickness affecting every relationship I have ever held. Yet I’m beginning to see...it is my sickness that is both a twisted curse and the doorway to Christ’s glory.
Religion rewarded my doing good, the clean, shiny appearance, the helping and healing of others. If not careful, I could be among the religious wreckage of individuals who gave so much that their bodies and families break down, who sacrifice a slap happy marriage for saving the poor when a “once for all” sacrifice has already been made. Did Jesus really ask us to ignore the misery in our marriage, in our family, in our church, in friendships and then cope by using ministry and church-serving like a drug? Or, was that the Ancient Serpent worming the Word of God to suit our egotistical quest for self worth? Religion lives in a shadowland of extreme victory and denies the narrow way of Christ-like transformation. Has anyone told the best sellers, the heroes and heroines on stages, the millionaire 3 steps to fixing your life and air filled arsonists offering strange fire that to deny the bad is to banish beauty. Bad can be good.
But we are terrified of this beauty - this is a part of the curse, to fear that which will save us. We are afraid of naming the bad and trusting Holy Spirit to make the good. We are afraid of letting go. We interpret living in the light as never admitting our dark. Jesus, who was without sin, teaches us about humanity. Being human is not a sin. Jesus wept - grief is a necessary painful, “bad” part of humanity, but it is not sin. Jesus questioned God as he headed to the Cross, “if there be any other way this cup could pass…”, this was a conversation, an admission of apprehension. Jesus sweated blood, major anxiety - is this bad? Yes. Was it sinful? No. So to endure our humanity and all the “bad” that comes with it, is part of our glory, our making, our unleashing of Jesus on the earth.
Maybe, just maybe, we can pull the curtain back behind what we think is so “bad”...and discover a frail human, waiting for an invitation toward authenticity, toward rescue, and into true beauty. How much power is waiting to be unearthed in soil we thought was useless and shameful? Let’s get to digging.
Founder, Jesus Said Love