Last week I wrote about my recent mission trip to Vietnam. It was a rare opportunity to step outside my normal view of life and catch a glimpse of how most people in the world live. What I saw tore my heart open and left me truly changed.
As I said last week, Vietnam as a country and the people who live there are so beautiful but so tragic all at the same time.
But honestly, I believe that describes each and every one of our stories. They are all beautiful and tragic at the same time. We all suffer loss. We all suffer heartache. We all suffer from loneliness and feeling left out. None of us goes through life without some form of hardship. As the great old song says, “That’s life!”
For the majority of us here in the United States, our suffering is not nearly as blatant as what I witnessed in the brave people I met in Vietnam, but we suffer just the same. Life does not go as we plan or we hope. Dreams get shattered. Life gets messy. Days get hard.
As I think about that phrase, tragically beautiful (I’m sure it will be a song eventually too!) that God keeps putting in my head, I think about how God can take the tragedies in our lives and make something beautiful out of them. I can’t help but think about my Dad’s long battle with strokes and his resulting dementia. He couldn’t speak for the last four years of his life, not a word, and his body slowly wasted away before us. He weighed 80 pounds when he died after nine long years of suffering, and let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. It was horrible. It was tragic.
Yet in the midst of that dark road my family traveled with his illness, there were moments of pure beauty, moments that I will treasure forever. You see, my Dad always loved music, and his greatest joy was listening to his five daughters sing. We sang together as a group when we were kids, and Dad never quit wanting to hear that amazing sibling harmony as we grew up. He nudged and prodded us to sing at family gatherings long after the “cute” factor was gone! And every time we sang, you could see that he was so very, very proud. He adored watching his girls sing!
As his disease progressed and Dad’s mind grew darker and darker, the man we knew and loved withdrew farther and farther away. Nothing seemed to reach him except…music! I would sing to him every time I would visit him in the nursing home, and for that brief moment as I sang his favorite hymn he would look at me as if he could understand, like he actually knew who I was. It was wonderful to see the veil in his mind temporarily lifted.
It was pure beauty!
Those are treasured moments in the midst of tragedy that I cherish to this day. I can close my eyes right now and picture him looking at me with the slightest twinkle of the old Dad I knew and loved, eyes full of mischief and joy. Those images are now priceless pieces of my memory because they showed me the incredible power of music. Those memories encourage me and renew my zeal as I realize music has the ability to touch people’s hearts like nothing else in this world. It’s a beautiful gift that helped me connect with my Dad right up to the end.
Truth is, sometimes when life is the hardest, beauty is at its best.
I believe our greatest challenge and perhaps our deepest calling is to find beauty in the midst of our mixed up, painful, sometimes tragic lives. The beauty is there because God is there in every step. He’s in those moments that tear our hearts in two. He’s there at the graveside. He’s there in the pain. He’s there in the lonely places. He’s there in the disappointment. He’s there in the shame. He’s there.
As believers, the greatest truth in each and every one of our stories is that the gift of salvation itself holds so much beauty in the midst of incredible tragedy. Jesus suffered in ways we can’t even imagine, bled on the cross, took on our shame in order to give us the beautiful gift of salvation, a gift that takes broken, worn out, hopeless sinners and transforms them into a new creation.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old is gone, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17
The Good News of Easter is that God redeems our messes! He turns our trash into treasure. God’s grace holds infinite beauty. We are all broken, but God’s grace makes each of our journeys tragically beautiful.
I encourage you, no, I implore you, find the beauty in your world today. Look around. It’s there! It may take a little digging to find it, and you may have to push some problems off your plate in order to see it, but it’s there. Choose to see it. Find those hidden miracles in the little things. Notice the nuggets. Dig for the gold. Be intentional about seeing the good. Uncover every beautiful piece of your story. If nothing else, take a minute to think about what Jesus did on the cross for you and celebrate the beauty of God’s amazing gift of grace.
Because it’s really quite extraordinary when you realize that all of us are tragically beautiful!
Hugs and love,
Jill Miller is most well known as a Nashville recording artist, singer, songwriter and she is also a certified speaker, coach and teacher with the John Maxwell Team. Jill dedicates her life to ministry through leading worship at women’s events and has touched thousands of women across the country through her relatable sharing. Author of “Grace Finds Wings – A Journey in Song,” Jill shares the stories behind the songs on her CD, “Grace Finds Wings,” and finds ways to touch your heart and help you discover grace in things like infertility, divorce, financial struggles, marital infidelity and loss. Jill recently released her 6th CD, “Twelve, the Freedom Soundtrack,” has opened for the legendary Loretta Lynn and sang the national anthem for President Bush.