The Fragility of Beauty

The New Zealand coastline is astoundingly beautiful. From the ruggedness of the West Coast to the pristine shores of the Coromandel our coastline speaks to us in resounding tones of the creative, awesome beauty of our God. I’ve just come back from a few days in a secluded little place called Onemana and had my soul refreshed by the masterpiece that God has painted there. But right now a significant stretch of our coastline is under threat from oil leaking out of a cargo ship called Rena 22 kilometres off-shore. It is a tragedy. Birds are dying, fish and shellfish are dying and beauty is turning into something straight out of Mordor – a place of death.

Beauty is nearly always fragile. Think of wildflowers, a mountain stream, a finely woven tapestry, spring blossom, autumn leaves. Think also of the human heart. We are told in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts. This is because they are fragile and need protection! In Christ we have been given new hearts. They are beautiful and glorious, but for most of us, they are more like the fragile beauty of a daffodil than the robust beauty of a diamond. Have a look at what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7:

“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (emphasis mine).”

Paul is talking about the human body but I’m pretty sure he’s also talking about the human heart. He goes on to talk about carrying around the death of Jesus in his body but also his life and resurrection power. He concludes in verse 16 with, “therefore we do not lose heart.” Our hearts are fragile. I’m thinking about a young women struck down with a severe eating disorder but with a soft, beautiful and tender heart. In a sense she’s suffering because of the beauty of her heart. It made her an easy target for the world and the enemy. I’m thinking about a friend of mine who turned to alcohol because his heart simply wasn’t coping with a difficult boss and the legalistic guilt that a church had placed on him. He needed Jesus but the lies stopped him from finding him.

So how do we become like Paul and not lose heart? We do what Proverbs teaches us and we “guard our hearts.” We recognise that our hearts are good but fragile, vulnerable and exposed. We take our place in the death and resurrection of Jesus just as Paul did. We continue to die to all the lies we were ever told about ourselves and come alive to the truth that, in Christ, we are the beloved sons and daughters of a very good God. We stand against the enemy by putting on the armour of God and standing in the truth of an empty cross and an empty tomb. We embrace our freedom in Christ and resist religious rules and petty legalism. We run into grace, love and mercy. We are fragile but we are loved, protected and embraced. We are also precious in his sight, a jewel in his crown –  a diamond in the making.

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