Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spot of Beauty

I don't follow the news much these days. I find it depressing and worrisome to be constantly reminded of what's going wrong in the world, and worse, of what else might go wrong. Perhaps those of you who pray for the world daily and specifically will criticize me, but I don't think every believer is emotionally equipped to be constantly on the front lines of that battle. Even in physical war, armies need quartermasters to handle the supplies, and chaplains to tend to spiritual needs, as well as fighting soldiers.

In or outside God's army, I know of many people who are positively addicted to the news. Few who spend much time in airports, restaurants, and similar venues will disagree that CNN is the most popular channel on televisions in public places. I doubt that many of the people staring at these screens are really praying about the tragedies depicted. More likely, the majority of viewers are feeding their fascination with disaster, or an addiction to information-gathering, or even a desperate search for reassurance that nothing awful will happen. I used to follow that last approach myself, but mostly I just found new excuses to worry.

Still, the news does have its bright spots: the sweepstakes winner who was living on a scanty Social Security check and yet gave every penny of her prize to those needier than herself; the youth counseling program credited with increasing high school graduation in its inner-city neighborhood by ten percent; the discovery of a new treatment for a long-feared disease. People aren't fascinated only by disaster and pain. They need regular doses of compassion and beauty as well.

As Christians we should be providing them with many of those doses. Jesus calls His followers to be lights displaying God's beauty to the world (see Mt. 5:14-16). And, just as stars are brightest on the darkest nights, often those spiritual lights shine the most beautifully where the world seems the most hopeless.

You may feel that your capabilities are small and that your light will never get brighter than a barely visible magnitude 6 star. But even the faintest star is a blazing sun at close range.

In a garden filled with weeds,
In a garden long untended,
One green shoot stood out alone,
In the days when winter ended.

In a spot sown by the wind,
In a spot so long neglected,
That one shoot grew straight and tall,
Like life’s beauty resurrected.

In a patch of tangled thorns,
Which no human hand had molded,
One white bud sprang from that shoot,
One white flower its bloom unfolded.

In that corner of neglect,
In that corner long forgotten,
Where it seemed all life was bleak,
Where it seemed all growth was rotten,

Sprang one pure and lovely bloom:
Though no human eye observed it,
Yet its beauty shone the more—
No competing rose obscured it.

So may we, within a world
Where love’s strength seems often feeble,
Be the lights that shine for hope,
Candles in our Lord's cathedral.

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