When our children were very young, my wife and I made an important economic/ascetic decision. Rather than go on vacations to places we really couldn’t afford and our kids wouldn’t appreciate, we would go to state parks instead. You could rent a cabin at just about any park for a very affordable price and with that came boating, swimming, fishing, and hiking. When we tired of those things, we could always explore the surrounding community.
So that’s what we did. Most of the parks that we visited over the years (in South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Missouri and Arkansas) were either built or refurbished by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the Depression years. There’s nothing fancy about them, but they are well-built and have stood the test of time. More than a few occasions I’ve thought about the CCC workers—how these down on their luck men were provided with something to do and they responded by building state parks that have blessed generations. That’s quite a legacy.
One summer we stayed at Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, Georgia. It was memorable for many reasons: the Liberty Bell Swimming Pool in the park, FDR’s Little White House in Warm Springs, and a visit to Callaway Gardens in the sweltering heat (The temperature was about 100 and the humidity wasn’t far behind). But the beauty of the Gardens (and the Butterfly Center) made is worthwhile. As a bonus, there was a water ski show and a circus conducted by students from Florida State.
One day we went to downtown Warm Springs. As we traipsed through the shops and stores, I remember coming across an item of interest in the back of a small antique shop. It was a carousel horse. In its earlier days it had undoubtedly occupied one of the places of honor on a merry-go-round. You could almost see the gleeful, bright-eyed boys and girls as they rode ’round and ’round while the music played. But those days were long gone for this horse. The years had taken their toll and its original paint was cracked throughout. But rather than trying to scrape or strip the old paint off, some wise restorer had simply but carefully cleaned the horse and then put a coat of finish on it. The result was that the cracks in the paint now appeared to be part of the decorative design. Its brokenness had been turned into beauty.
This piece really doesn’t have much to say to those whose lives are an unbroken string of achievement and success. But if you’ve been around long enough to see some dreams die, to have been kicked around by life, or if you’ve watched the things you’ve given your life to break into pieces (Kipling), then I suspect there might be something here for you.
What is it?
Simply this: attaining the goals we’ve set for ourselves isn’t nearly as important to God as our efforts to please Him. He’s much more interested in our availability than our ability. From our perspective, our work/life may seem unfinished or broken, but in God’s hands it can be transformed into something beautiful. The One who can turn a patch of barren desert into an oasis or a caterpillar into a butterfly can take the unfinished work of our lives with all of its cracks and crevices and make something beautiful of it. If we allow Him, He will make blessings our of our brokenness.
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! No it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Trust in the One who transforms brokenness into beauty.