The artist stands a full hour in the clearing, staring at the aspen trees. Her keen eyes trace the form of the trunks, feeling the way they curve back from the center; she explores the knots and crevasses, memorizing the patterns and colors of the bark. Later, she will sketch the tree from memory, then paint it as though she is creating life. She’ll lay the form down first, then stroke the bark on like skin. Every characteristic of the tree, even the black fissures and scars, will contribute to the beauty of the trunk. Some branches she will soften up with leaves while others will be left to write a message stark across the sky . . . .
The designs of the Lord … are from age to age.
He’s been thinking about us forever! That’s part of one of my favorite psalms. It continues like this:
From the heavens the Lord looks forth;
he sees all the children of men….
he who shapes the hearts of them all…. (vss. 13,15)
Think about that: the Lord of the Universe not only thought of us in advance, he makes the effort to look down from heaven at each one of us, considering us as individuals, even planning who we will be and tending us as we grow.
Wait: God made me . . . like this?
Sometimes I look at myself and see my flaws and I think God, what were you thinking? Why did you make me like this?
Then I remember I’m a work in progress and that God, like that artist, knows how to incorporate the flaws and hurts that sin (mine and the results of the Fall) uses to mar and wrinkle me, into a thing of beauty.
He makes everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
It helps me to look at that aspen bark. Those dark spots and lines turn it from boring to beautiful.
Aspen bark is sensitive, which helps it get all it can from the sun when its leaves are gone … but which also means it shows its wounds. It gets dark lines and fissures with age, and wrinkles form around damaged bits and branches as it grows. Some artists smooth them out to pristine limbs but to my eye, the most beautiful paintings are the ones that show the scars and wrinkles.
God sees your true beauty
Here’s the thing to remember, when we’re tempted to paint perfect pictures for social media and hide our flaws and weaknesses in shame: God looks at us with our scars and wrinkles the way the artist views those aspen trees: with love and a desire to bring out of them their true beauty. I’ll say it again:
He makes everything beautiful in its time.
Here’s the psalmist again—this time in Psalm 139:1-3, 13-4, 17—extolling God’s personal care for us:
O LORD, you search me and you know me.
You yourself know my resting and my rising;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down;
you know all my ways through and through. […]
For it was you who formed my inmost being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you who wonderfully made me;
how wonderful are your works,
which my soul knows well! […]
To me how precious your thoughts, O God;
how great is the sum of them!
If you feel less than precious today, take time to meditate on Psalm 33 or 139. Fill your soul with God’s love, with the certainty of how much he cares for you.
May your merciful love be upon us,
as we hope in you, O LORD. (Psalm 33:22)
© Sarah Christmyer 2019
 The Revised Grail Psalter is the new English version of the Psalms approved for liturgical use. I recommend them for personal prayer as well! There’s a lovely poetic quality about them. You can read them online at the links I included above, and you can get them in book form here.
The Revised Grail Psalms Copyright © 2010, Conception Abbey/The Grail, admin. by GIA Publications, Inc., www.giamusic.com All rights reserved.