Recently some new ideas on the value of beauty crossed my path. I was unprepared for how our trip to Albania would provide a living example of those ideas.
During this past school year, Alyssa and I read some interesting things about bringing beauty to dark places. I enjoyed the discussions that followed. We thought about the danger of pursuing beauty in our lives at the expense of other things that God might have for us.
Instead of accepting the [people] that God sends in the course of our lives, the devotee of beauty…cares to know only those people whose views of life are the same as his own.
-Charlotte Mason Vol. 4
It went on to describe how the person can become unable to be around things that are ugly, so he avoids places that are not beautiful to him. But the sadness rushes in when he misses out on the happiness that comes from the effort to bring beauty to dark and troubled places.
For happiness comes of effort, service, wide interests, and last and least, of enjoyment…
when people put enjoyment, even of beautiful things, in the first place…they miss the very thing they seek, and become enfeebled in body and fretful and discontented in temper.
These things made an impression on us, not so much because we are constantly chasing after beautiful things, but because we began to notice where beauty was, and where it was not.
We must make it our business, as much as in us lies, to bring beauty to places where it is not.
– C. Mason
As most of you know, we have just returned from a trip to Albania to visit our missionaries. It was quite an adventure, and as we imagined, it gave us a more realistic perspective of what is happening over there.
It is difficult to adequately describe all that we were able to see and hear, but something stood out to me as we listened to the stories of what is happening with the people of that country.
There is beauty in that place of devastation. In those broken families, in the hurt and abused children, there are precious smiles. Sin and corruption abound, but the smiles and the pockets of beauty point to a God who is still there. God hasn’t abandoned that place and those people. They too are created in God’s image, and are just as precious to Him as any of us.
Albania is a beautiful country. Just gorgeous. If it had not recently come out of communism, with all of the mess that comes from such trying times, you would want it on your list of places to see.
It was the land of the paradox.
On many streets there were completely destroyed buildings, right up next to perfectly respectable looking homes.
There were bright smiles from girls who have been so badly abused in all the ways you can imagine, that one look at their glad faces can make you cry.
It could at least help us to re-evaluate the things that make us “sad”.
Across from respectable looking buildings, there was a “home” with a child and his mother. The home rivaled any I have visited in Mexico in regards to squalor and filth. They pay half of all their income to rent that broken down dump. I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture. It felt disrespectful.
On one corner, delicious gyros were sold, but on the other hand, the water can possibly make you sick.
In the middle of all of this beauty and ugliness…live our missionaries and their children. Life for them is not what it is for you and me. They choose to live and serve in a dark place.
Bad news is often right around the corner: Another child was found beaten. A new story of a young girl brutally attacked. These things are part of the pattern of daily life.
It is not easier for them than it would be for you and me. It is hard. Ugly. Painful. I imagine that it is difficult to see the beauty around them each day, when they are so busy trying to provide safety for these marginalized children that many refuse to help.
For this reason I was so glad and impressed to see that my friend had brought beauty to places where it was not.
All of the beautiful flowers and plants, the color of her walls, the prints hung on those walls, they all speak to a determination.
There will be beauty in this place.
We know that in the end, beauty will triumph over ugliness, good will win over evil. God will finally beat the Devil once and for all.
It seemed that the invaluable part of what my friend is doing with her space is the precious message she is sending to her family: No matter what is outside of these walls, no matter the desolation and hurt, I will make a place for us to be at peace. Her family needs it, she and her husband need it.
I felt humbled and honored to see it.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.