“Beauty in Ashes”
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:30
‘Darn it, something always comes up, I think I have a flat!’ I exclaimed to no one in the middle of nowhere. I was looking for a quiet, secluded place. I was contemplating ending my life. I couldn’t take the rejection any longer. You see, I was born with a large birthmark on the right side of my face, and I stuttered. No matter how many job opportunities I explored I never could get a break. I know that all people saw was a scarred-up face and an annoying, hopeless, stuttering man. I had no relationships, and I felt the possibility of a wife and children were totally out of the question.
Frustrated, I found a spot on a hill and parked under an oak tree. I needed to think about my future. As I looked around, I noticed a few hundred feet away there stood a dilapidated old farmhouse with a “For Sale” sign stuck in front of it. I had this eerie feeling that the house was talking to me. I thought I looked bad! This house looked haunted and worthless. Then, I noticed a small, seemingly frail-looking old man coming out of the house and waving at me. He was wearing bib overalls, a crisp white shirt, and a smile on his face. I rolled down the window as he approached. He announced, “Hi, I am Joseph, the owner; are you the one?”
“Am I the one what?” I questioned.
“Are you the one interested in buying the house and 5 acres?” he elaborated.
“No, Sir. I have a flat, a tow truck should be here soon,” I answered politely, eager to get back on my way. To this day, I am not sure just why, but against my better judgment, I stuck my head out of the window and looked at the battered old house with curious interest. It was a two-story with a wraparound porch which had certainly seen its better days. However, something told me to get out and go inside, so I replied, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind looking at it, if that’s okay. You never know.”
I followed him to the house not expecting much; but when he opened the front door and stepped out of the way to let me go in front of him, I felt my breath catch in my throat. Inside was immaculate- with detailed craftsmanship- I had never seen equaled in all my life! Light streamed in from windows somewhere high above illuminating everything. There was not so much as a bit of dust on anything in sight, and its sheer beauty gave me the feeling of being in church. It was obvious that every beam above us had been hand hewn with love and tender care, every joint perfectly fit, and below us a beautiful wood floor gleamed with a hand rubbed polish. His tools were hung neatly on the walls with care above a large, well-crafted table set with lovely and costly place settings as if he were expecting guests for supper. Above the tools on the wall were expertly made cabinets with inlaid images of fir trees and deer. I never dreamed that a house so scarred on the outside could be so incredibly beautiful on the inside.
“I’ve spent a lifetime working on restoring the inside of this old house. I never worried much about the outside,” Joseph laughed. He had revealed woodwork that with a little care, could indeed be beautiful once again. As I tried to take in all the treasures of this place, the sun streamed through an oval stained-glass window I hadn’t noticed before and onto a fireplace. He smiled knowingly at me and walked over to the mantel and pointed to the side of the fireplace where beautiful green tiles of onyx gleamed back at me. “Imported from Russia by the original builder’s father as a gift to his wife.” We continued to walk through the old house which I realized wasn’t in nearly as bad shape as I had first believed, but merely needed the gentle hand of a master to bring her back to life.
The sun had begun to set, and Joseph walked me back to my car. I turned to look at the house once more which looked so broken on the outside and began to feel that cloud of depression seep back over me. The little man called me by name which was strange because I didn’t remember telling him my name, and as he began to speak, realized that the house wasn’t the only thing that wasn’t what it looked like on the outside. “Thomas, if I may be so presumptuous, I get the feeling that you feel that you may look something like the outside of that old house. You’ve developed a chip on your shoulder and pre-judge everything- assuming people don’t like you. You must invite people into your life to see the amazing gifts and talents that you possess on your inside!” I stared at him incredulously as he continued, “It’s time for you to dust off your crusty old attitude and turn your life over to the master carpenter. Thomas, if you will allow God to remodel you, you will find the respect you desire. Thomas, God has a woman waiting for you who will bring you incredible love and beautiful children. The beauty you have inside is to be shared, not squandered. Quit blaming your circumstances for failure and begin looking to God for your purpose! You have been chosen for this time!“ He smiled, patting me on my shoulder.
Strangely, the house and the little old man began to fade away, and the sound of his patting on my shoulder became a rapid knocking on my car window. I awakened in the front seat of my car to the sound of a mechanic trying to get my attention. “Are you Thomas? I am here to fix your flat.” “Ok,” I answered groggily. I got out of the car and looked around now wide awake, questioning the confused mechanic, “Where’s that old house that was over there?” I pointed to the empty field where it had been. “It was for sale! I was just talking to this man – he said his name was Joseph!”
He said, “Sir, I have no idea what you are talking about. This property has been vacant for years. The original owners built a church over there, but it burned down years ago. It had a unique name. Now what was it? Oh yeah! I remember! It was called, “Beauty for Ashes.”