In a day and age where every VSCO-fied instagram post and trendy hashtag sets a standard for our hopes, dreams and expectations, it’s easy to operate in a mindset that life’s adventures are glamorous.
We think they come with pretty latte art and lyric moments written in watercolor calligraphy. We assume we’ll hop from mountain top to mountain top, proud of the picnics we have on free-trade organic woven blankets that support some non-profit, and being affirmed in all these assumptions when the photo of said picnic gets a few hundred likes.
Perhaps if you follow me on instagram, you’re already thinking, “Geez, Sara. Would you prefer to be the pot or the kettle in this scenario? Cause, you know, they’re both black.”
Don’t get me wrong. I am a lover of beautiful things, a sucker for a poetic caption and a guilty user of too many filters and hashtags. (What does #liveauthentic really mean, anyway?) I love lattes and free trade blankets, and I especially love picnics and watercolor calligraphy. What I’ve grown to realize, though, is that those things are the pretty pinpoints on the maps of our lives, with a whole journey of ugly in between.
We want to believe that the brave things of life are glamorous… but they usually come with a pretty ugly fight.
What I feel like I’ve been learning in the last couple of years of my life is that the fight IS the adventure. That’s the good stuff. Those are the places I can look back and know God drew nearer than ever in that moment. In fact, I started thinking the other day about all the hardest things I’ve ever walked through, and I realized that every single one comes with deep conviction and life-changing revelation moments with Jesus.
But they also come with deep ache. They come with longings unfulfilled, dreams yet to be realized and disappointment that still hurts a little.
This is the tension we live in as sons and daughters of God, followers of Jesus and friends of the Holy Spirit. We live in the tension of longing for what we know is ultimately ours, while also having a grace to stop and find those poetic moments of beauty we all envy on instagram.
The truth, however, is that those moments are fleeting. But you know what I’ve found to be constant? The nearness of God in every single place of longing and loss. That’s where the beauty is born.
Maybe this is what James meant when he wrote that we should consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds. Perhaps Paul knew the beauty that was birthed out of what’s broken, so he had no problem boasting in his weakness and pressing on through light and momentary affliction — because that was preparing him for the eternal weight of glory that was ahead.
One day, we will stand on the other side of Heaven and have no more sorrow. No more suffering. No more longing or ache or loss. And when I stand in that place, worshiping forevermore, I want to be the woman who knew Jesus intimately on this side of Heaven.
I want to be the girl who built a rich history of friendship with Him when it hurt. I want to be the daughter who knew Goodness and Mercy well, for they were the companions who had followed her — chased her, even — all the days of her life, through valleys deep and chasms wide.
A few weeks ago, I was at a conference in Houston, and I felt like God started speaking to me about my life during worship one morning. I felt like He said, “Sara, your whole life has just been a series of invitations. You’ve never had to say yes, but when has your yes ever not been worth it?”
I’ve learned that “yes” is a weighty word. It has led me down into the deepest valleys and up to the highest peaks. All God led, just as Jeremiah 31 promises, with loving kindness.
All inevitably painful, outrageously uncomfortable and undoubtedly worth it.
I don’t know your story, or what kind of mess you’re walking through right now, but I know that somehow, Romans 8:28 is true. I’ve seen Him do it time and time again — work all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. I don’t understand it, and it never looks like I thought it would, but He always does it.
I don’t know which daring, ugly-beautiful adventure you stand at the foot of, but I dare you to say yes to it. There will be poetic instagram moments, and you should absolutely stop and enjoy them. But the gritty journey of ugly on the way to those moments… those are the places where all that beauty is born. Those are the moments that make way for the glory that’s to come. Those are the places He stamps you with His character, and you’re never the same.
It’s better than the prettiest VSCO-gram. Better than the perfect latte, and it’s written in permanent ink in Heaven’s storybook of your life, far more beautiful than the loveliest calligraphy.
So, cheers. To your ugly adventure. This is where the brave things of life are experienced. This is where the glory is born.