Lessons From Ugliness

When I was a freshman in college I had to do a project for my English class. I don’t remember the details of the assignment, but I remember I submitted a collage of lovely, romantic nature scenes. And my professor, from that, pinpointed a flaw in my world view. She observed that I was only acknowledging the lovely, peaceful, beautiful side of nature. But what about the ugliness and destruction? 

I don’t recall if she directly made the connection with my view of God, or if the Holy Spirit made that connection for me, but the lesson was there – I didn’t know how to accept God in the ugly things. I wanted to keep a view of God that only saw the beautiful things.

The truth is, I still struggle with this – wishing my life and the lives of those around me would be only beautiful, wanting to hide the ugly parts, erase them, pretend them into non-existence. 

I was reflecting on this today as I finished a novel that stirred those wishes in me and I think I saw a point to the ugliness and the pain that comes with it.

When our lives are all (or mostly) loveliness – when we’re healthy, comfortable, and content – it’s easy to forget that this world isn’t meant to be our heaven. And we are easily caught up in trying to make this earth our heaven.

But this world isn’t our home. It’s not our ultimate destination. It’s not our heaven. And the ugliness, the pain, they can remind us of this. Who wants a broken world to be their ultimate destination? Who wants to build their dream home next to a toxic dump?

Our sin reminds us of why we need a savior. Pain and suffering and brokenness – ugliness – remind us that this world is not our home.

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25)

Written January 2020