In the writing of my new book Beauty in the Wreckage: Finding Peace in the Age of Outrage, there were parts that were my favorites and I want to share one from each chapter with you. In this first post, I have selected portions from the first five chapters. If you haven’t picked up the book yet, you can get three free chapters and the links where to buy it at this website.
Chapter 1- Learning to See Beauty in the Wreckage
And it is possible that you have had a moment in your life in which heaven and earth came together as well. It may have been a fleeting moment in which you had a small taste of something eternal that you couldn’t quite describe, but that you wished you could experience once again in fullness. It may have been a moment in which you experienced a feeling of wholeness or completeness or harmony in your life or in a relationship. It may have been a moment in which you experienced an inner peace and freedom that seemed to transcend everything that was going on around you, no matter how chaotic or painful. It may have been a moment in which you experienced a grace, a mercy, a forgiveness, a love that you never knew previously existed. Those moments were the shalom of God.
Chapter 2- The Unity of All Things
In response to my serious lack of understanding to his perspective and my continued questioning for clarity, he said, “People like you will never get it.”
And that crushed me.
The way we label and classify and categorize people can reinforce, maybe even harden and solidify, what we think about them and what is already in our hearts. They become projections of how we see, experience, and relate to the world, as a divided, fragmented reality.
I was categorized as a Conservative, Republican Evangelical. And because of that label, I was not worth the effort or time because I would “never get it.”
Well, I did eventually get it. And rather than continuing the endless cycle of labeling others and diminishing people and causing more anger and division, I want to use that experience to chart a better way forward together.
Chapter 3- You Have Been Invited
But when we do, we carry this new life with us into every experience. This peace and forgiveness within our souls begins to flow into our every interaction and conversation and relationship. This joy in our being begins to delight in the resident goodness of all things- every sight, every sound, every touch, and every scent. And this deep love in our hearts begins to awaken us to a beauty in all things that we may have previously missed or taken for granted.
Like sitting in silence and meditating and praying and communing in the life-giving presence of God. Taking an early morning walk and contemplating the beauty of creation and giving thanks for all that we awake to every morning. Sitting down for a meal with our families and friends each evening after a long day. Seeing every person as a brother or sister who is unconditionally loved. Hugging the brokenhearted, sharing words of life and encouragement to those who are having a hard time, or making a meal for the family who lost a loved one. Serving meals and sitting at a table in conversation with those who gather at the hot meal site. Visiting and caring for the widow in our neighborhoods. Holding the hand of our spouse during their chemotherapy treatment. Remembering all of those moments in our lives and cherishing them and giving thanks for it all.
It’s every single moment of our lives, even in the hardship, even in the pain, even in the wreckage where heaven and earth come together, where a new reality births within us and we begin to see and experience all things differently.
And that is so much more than religion could ever give you.
Chapter 4- A More Beautiful Suffering
Beauty can, and will, come from this wreckage and devastation. But sometimes, it may not be apparent to you, or even apparent to you in your lifetime.
Suffering, as an end destination, is nothing but wreckage and devastation and hopelessness. It is a wasteland where nothing good is found and where misery and brokenness reside. It is the valley of the shadow of death.
But suffering, as a transformative passageway, is the ground upon which beauty flourishes, where hope is birthed. It is the morning light, the dawning of a new day, from which the first hopeful rays break over the distant horizon of the valley that causes the darkness to flee.
You may not trust these words right now, but there is hope in your pain and suffering.
Chapter 5- The Possibility of Joy
But we always have a choice as to whether we stay wounded, crushed, and broken in our suffering as an end destination, or if we ultimately face our pain through suffering and let it be the beginning place of transformation and beauty.
For if we are to begin this upward ascent from the valley of the shadow of death, it begins with the acknowledgement that we do not want to stay in this place forever. And it may help you to know that this journey does not require you to leave your aching heart behind.
The end destination for a wounded and broken heart is never the valley of the shadow of death. We carry this wounded and broken heart with us, upward over the mountain. And we carry it together, brother. We carry it together, sister.
I will post Chapters 6-10 next week.