The Beauty We Can Keep

As I stretched to life this morning against the thick green comforter on my bed, the sound of a distant thunder echoed through the rain washed air filtering in past the bedroom screens.

    The morning mist carried the jasmine scent from the black locust tree to fill my room once again. I woke up the dogs and got them ready for their morning jaunt.

    The rain had let up as I gave the dogs their run through the wet green. I caught the aroma of the flowering chives beaten in with the fragrance of lilac finishing its walk through the New England spring. The wild Irish rose had bloomed in the sudden thunder-heat of last night and the Elizabethan garden was awash with its spice.

    The baby robins twittered in their nest under the eaves as the bullfrog sang from its home in the vernal brook behind the house.

     As I wandered the yard in the rising sun I found myself desiring to distill the beauty of the moment into something less fleeting something that would last for an eternity. I wanted to freeze the frame and stand in its peace and apparent perfection forever.

     Then God put me in mind of a conversation I had several years ago with a young man who had joined himself to our church. He was a young spitfire preacher who loved Jesus but thought of the Savior in the context of a bizarre mixture of Pentecostalism and Liberation Theology.

     I can still recall sitting at lunch with him in that little diner. He was almost weeping over his cup of coffee as he zealously asked “What can we do to turn this thing around Pastor J? What can we do to stop God’s judgment on the world? We can’t lose all this beauty! What do we have to do to save our planet from the wrath of God?”

     A little shocked I replied “We can’t save the planet. The Bible says it is going to burn. The only thing we can rescue out of the world is souls.”

     This morning as I walked through my gardens I thought about those words.  A day is coming when the scent of lilac and locust, chive and wild irish rose will be burned away by the fury of our God. In that day my earthly garden will stand no more. I cannot keep its beauty no matter how much I desire too. But there is a beauty I can keep. It is the beauty of souls saved for eternity.

        It is for this reason: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;  To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. ”  (Isaiah 61:1-3 KJV)

     Those moments of “perfection” we experience in life, like the moment I had in my garden, are but quickly fading reflections, echoes of the heavenly life we truly long for. They are exquisite and dangerous if received in the flesh.  Carnal humans get lost in those moments of earthly beauty and turn their attention to seeking the echo rather than the singer, the reflection rather than the source. Sadly echoes quickly fade and reflections do not remain when once the mirror breaks (as life is wont to cause). Disneyland will never satisfy the cravings of the soul for adventure. Hollywood can never satisfy our desire to be loved even with its greatest romance and I cannot keep the passing beauty of this morning’s gardens.

     But there is a beauty we can keep if we will turn our attentions away from this world and focus ourselves on the Lord’s garden of souls. If I recognize that what I truly long for when I walk my gardens is the home I have in eternity and to be able to share it with the rest of the world, then my hunger for beauty is taken from the world and placed in the hands of the Savior where it belongs. He then can rightly position it so that, with Him, I focus on gardening for souls. My life becomes about scattering and cultivating the seed of the Word in the hearts of my fellow-men.

     Then I can enjoy the beauty of the Earth. For it is in the context of the beauty of the Kingdom of God I see it all!

May your focus be eternity and your joy in life be the hope of Heaven for yourself and all your loved ones!