When hurricane Katrina blasted her way into the Gulf Coast she left behind her a depressing display of wreckage and devastation. There are still vacant lots and skeletal remains where grand buildings used to stand.
My friends met and fell in love in Biloxi over ten years ago, and are stationed there now with their family. When we visit them our conversations in the car are sprinkled with "used to be" and "was." The city is working hard on it's recovery though, and each visit we find it more beautiful and the beauty is a testament to the efforts of the locals.
As I drive down Highway 90 to get to the base where they work and live I very much enjoy one particular effort, and I would like to share my reflections on it with you.
The highway has a tree lined median, where grand oaks towered, deeply rooted in the Mississippi sand. All of them lost limbs and leaves during Katrina, stripped bare and stung by the wind driven rain. Many of the trees never recovered, and they died slowly.
Then someone had an idea. Instead of tearing the trees up the government contracted with an artist to make them into sculptures, so the trees could continue to beautify the land where they had stood throughout memory.
So the work commenced. The artist sawed and hacked, carved grooves and took out whole chucks of the once proud trees. I am sure they protested, I am sure the wood whined at him as he worked, but he lovingly continued shaping them until this is what was left:
We live in trying times. Each of us is surrounded by people who have been buffeted and stung by the winds and rains of life. They clung to their roots while the floods washed around them, and sometimes they have been through so much that they have lost all hope of being what they once were.
Some would say there is no hope for them, that they are unsightly and should be removed from our view so that their devastation doesn't devastate us more. However, I think we should be like that Mississippi visionary, and like that artist. We should see the value in a soul. We should see the potential when there is little left of what once was.
The greatest artist that ever lived was Jesus Christ, for he made things of miraculous beauty out of the most damaged and destitute of souls. I'm no Monet, but he's made something beautiful out of me. He sent artists with rough tools to shape me, they've knocked off whole chunks off me and whittled and gouged. It's been a painful process.
Now as I stand here and the wind blows around me, flowing like music through beautiful lines I never knew I had, I understand. I understand that Jesus always sees the beauty in me, at all stages of my life, and that if I trust him I can see it too.
If we trust him we can see, and reveal the beauty in all of us. Sometimes all God needs is an artist.