Unfolding Beauty

I have been watching a beautiful love story unfold.  It has only been evident for three years, but it began fifteen years ago.  God brought a little girl and her family to our church.  This little girl began to take piano lessons from me when she was seven.  I then became her Sunday school teacher while she was in the 4th–6th grade.  I had occasional contact with her during her teen years while at church or working with the youth group.  I received an invitation to her high school graduation, which happened to be the same ceremony from which my son was graduating.  She and my son both entered college, and life moved on.  I did not see her much for about eighteen months, but then she and my son began developing their friendship, which led to dating, which led to engagement, and which, in just two weeks, will lead to their marriage.  I will enter a new stage of relating to her as I gain a daughter, and I will see more beauty unfold.  I never saw this coming all those years ago, but God had a perfect plan, and when it was His timing, it came to fruition.

God makes everything beautiful in its time.Although we don’t know how things will all turn out, He does, and we can trust Him. Will all things we experience in our lifetimes be good?  No; we live in a fallen world.  But God is good, and He will work for the good of those who love Him.2  So even if the circumstances of our lives do not change, we can be transformed by His glory and for His glory.  There are flowers that can bloom in the desert, during drought, and in the dark, and when we choose to live a life for God, beauty will unfold in our lives.  When we move to become more like Christ and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit, we will become beautiful.  Just as a flower needs time and nutrients to bloom, He will grow us, tend us, nurture us, and bring a beautiful harvest from our lives.  He who started the work will faithfully complete it.

The beauty of His plan for us is beyond anything we can even imagine. Just as it was when God created the world, adding more and more beauty, so it is with a heart surrendered to Him. It is like watching a beautiful love story unfold. Just as we move from being a stranger to an acquaintance to a casual friend to a serious friend to a dating relationship to being engaged to being married, our relationship with God moves through stages.  The more time we spend with Him, the more we will know Him and see His involvement in our lives.  Our actions will make all the difference in how our relationship with Him unfolds.  We can move from a point of realizing He exists to knowing Him intimately.  We can move from being His creation to becoming His child.  We can invite Him to be our Savior, and His Spirit will come to dwell within us, never leaving nor forsaking us.  We can then continue to grow our relationship by communing with Him and taking on His heart and mind.  Over time, we will discover more of His attributes, and our love for Him will grow.  And a beautiful story will unfold.  

He has declared His love for us.  Will we receive it?  Will we invite Him to live in us, walk with us, and be the One with whom we spend eternity?  Prophecy is unfolding step by step.  One day, Jesus will return for His own, and the beauty of eternal life with Him will unfold for them.  Will this beauty unfold in your life? 


For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,

that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:16


NOTES

1 See Ecclesiastes 3:11.

2 See Romans 8:28.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.

©Text and photo Francee Strain, October 23, 2021

Unbound–Part 1 of 3

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Six days before the Passover Feast—the last meal Jesus would have before His crucifixion—He paid a visit to his friend Lazarus and sat down to have supper with him. This was not the first time Jesus had come to visit Lazarus. As a matter of fact, they shared quite a history together. At one point, Jesus had offered Lazarus a most extraordinary invitation…

“Lazarus was not doing anything when his invitation arrived. He was getting nowhere in life. Actually, He was dead! But despite that he no longer lived and breathed, he received an invitation. This was a most extraordinary invitation, and it did not come in the mail! It was personally delivered by Jesus Himself.

John 11:1–44 gives the account. Jesus had been preaching in another town when word arrived that His good friend Lazarus was ill. Jesus did not immediately depart for the city of Bethany in order to heal Lazarus; instead, He remained where He was for two more days, finishing up what He was there to do. When it was in God’s timing, and after the work had been completed in the place where Jesus was, He then traveled to see Lazarus.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, He was greeted with criticism and the accusation that He was arriving too late because Lazarus had already been dead for four days! Count them—four. Four days of being dead. Four days that passed while Jesus worked and traveled somewhere else. But Jesus did not allow this unwelcoming reception to stop Him from delivering His invitation to Lazarus. He went to the tomb where Lazarus was buried, told people to move the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, and then proceeded with His commanding voice to issue an invitation for Lazarus to live again. Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43), and Lazarus came out of the tomb. Here we get a really good look at what Lazarus was doing in life. He was dead in a tomb, sealed behind a stone, and bound in graveclothes. But extraordinary things happened when Jesus showed up on the scene. First of all, an invitation was given to a dead person. Second, God’s resurrection power was seen. Third, a dead man got back to living his life. If this does not prompt us to come when God calls, I do not know what will!

God extends the same invitation to us that He extended to Lazarus. God is calling us to come out from death unto life—from spiritual death unto spiritual life. This is eternal life: to know Jesus Christ (John 17:3). No matter what stones are trapping us in life, no matter what we are wrapped up in and tied up in, no matter what stench we are covered with, no matter what cold darkness we are surrounded by, no matter how alone and laid out flat we are, no matter what others say about us, no matter how hopeless things look—even if it appears that our best days are behind us—He wants to free us from spiritual bondage and restore us to life and relationships. He wants us to be healthy and vibrant again, breathing and glowing, being and doing, loving and being loved. He wants us to live! He has placed the breath of physical life into us, but He also calls us to live with the breath of the Holy Spirit.

But does it ever seem to us, instead, like God is far away—in some other city or some other universe? Does it seem that He is ignoring both our pleas and the pleas of those who are telling Him we need help? Are we surrounded by people who are lamenting our situations? Do we have people in our lives who are like Mary and Martha, who accuse God of letting us suffer? Do they believe that if He was truly in our lives, things like this would not be happening to us? At one point, my son questioned why he should continue to pray for me when God was not giving me physical healing. Several people who are saddened by my chronic illnesses tell me that these illnesses should not be a part of my life. What do all of us honestly think and feel?

Does it seem like God is taking His time in getting to where we are and responding to our needs? Has it been more than four days—a lot more? Are we wondering whether He will ever come? Do we fear that He is too busy taking care of other things in other places to have any time for us? Do we think it is already too late and that the situation has passed beyond His power to help? Have we resigned ourselves to permanently live in our current states? Have we given up the fight? Have we stopped asking for help? Have we almost ceased to breathe? I have news for us—good news. We can change, although our circumstances remain the same. We can have a full and joyfully abundant life now—despite the pain—because Jesus came to give us that abundant life. It seems improbable, impractical, and impossible, yet it is true. But we have to make the choice to come out of the tomb and get out of those graveclothes. We have to come forth from the  unpleasantness. We have to respond to His call to leave behind the things He wants us to leave behind, and live.”1

Francee Strain, No Ordinary Invitation: Called to Live a Life of Eternal Purpose, (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2017), 28-30.

Photography by Francee Strain, ©2018