Lily went walking over to this tree.
The whole crew of us had set out and about on a hike and we were all walking quickly in the other direction so I turned and called, “Lily, what are you doing?”
I saw her hands move as she replied but I couldn’t hear her answer above the ever-present chatter of the other kids.
A bit later she caught back up but I’d already forgotten her side journey as she said, “They weren’t even orange.”
“What?” I replied, having no idea what she was talking about.
“The leaves, they aren’t even orange. They are all sorts of colors, even green and brown.”
She seemed a bit disappointed and perplexed in wrapped into one.
It took a few days, when I had my camera in hand, for me to spot that tree and to truly see.
What appeared from a distance to be a brilliant orange tree was quite different up close. And Lily was a bit disappointed and intrigued. We talked about it later, making sense out of the situation. On that day of discovery what she wanted was to get a leaf to keep, a beautiful orange leaf, but up close all she found was some funny looking leaves.
Kind of disappointing in the moment
I suppose, if you’re an artist then you already understand how color works this way. How different, even unexpected, shades work together to create intricacy, depth and beauty.
But in real life, it still surprises us. Maybe, like looking at those leaves, many of us still want our lives to be perfect, flawless and without defect.
But things don’t seem to work that way.
Just like the colors of the leaves, our lives are made up of a variety of experiences together building the whole picture. Maybe we can’t see the beauty because we are looking too closely.
If we believe in Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
If we trust in Ephesians 2:10
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
If we hold tight to Philippians 1:6
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Then how do those truths change the way you face your daily, hourly, moment by moment view?
and what if we go deeper still…
What if we recognize that each of our moments is about something greater? What if we see that there is value in the details because of the whole view?
‘Cause let’s face it, I’m not sure many of us are really okay with people seeing the ugly spots of our lives. We might be tempted to hold people at arms length (or farther) so all they can see is the beautiful view. No one needs to see the details, thank you very much. The overview is good enough, am I right?
Nope, no I’m not.
Because the truth is, it isn’t only about me. If it was, then maybe I would get to decide what image to cultivate and what “spots” to hide. But it isn’t about me. That is one of the hardest things and one of the most freeing things to say.
Through struggle Paul experienced it.
The Samaritan woman at the well knew it.
The man born blind lived it.
What their stories exemplify is true for us too: our lives, our stories, our struggles, our triumphs… they aren’t ours alone. They bear witness to the goodness, truth, mercy, grace, love and glory of God.
It’s why the man endured a lifetime of blindness… that God would be glorified.
It’s why the woman ran into town to tell the very details of her life to the exact people she’d been trying to avoid… so they could see the truth of God and believe.
It’s why Paul could boast in his weaknesses, struggles and hardships… because in them God is perfect.
Looking at the leaves, Lily had to really process how it could be that such vibrant beauty was created from a seemingly odd mishmash of colors… Looking at our lives we often have to do the same. The very details we’d like to hide or the story we’d like to keep people from getting close to are the very details needed as they show God’s love, grace, mercy, goodness and glory revealed.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
God’s plans… we might not understand them, probably never would have chosen if it were up to us, yet, they are better than we could ever have imagined. And when we hide the details because they aren’t pretty, because it doesn’t cast us in a good light… well, we’re hiding so much more than we think.
We could be hiding the very details others need to see the glory of God as revealed in our story so they can find hope in their own.
What happens when we live freed by these truths to shine the glory of God even in the darkest/ugliest places of our own lives?