When you feel used up

The picture stands, testimony to what was. The ugly scar of a worked-out limestone quarry, gouged deep and empty and useless.

The picture stands, testimony to what was, for without it, no one would believe.


* * * * *

I round the corner above the Sunken Garden and catch my breath, stunned into silence by magnificence. I gaze long, savor each new angle, descend into the pit and explore each corner of this glorious display of color.


There is no hint of ugliness now. The deepest places have been filled with water, the mirror redoubling surrounding beauty. Bare walls have been planted with ivy, and the gentle roar of water pouring over the pit’s edge quiets those who pass by.


The curving beauty of grace marks all, transforming the deep pit of brokenness so thoroughly that, though I look long, I cannot see the single remaining stack of the old cement plant which greedily chewed this wound in the earth. Only when I return once more at the end of my visit does the light reveal this one remaining testament to what was.

If I had planned the garden of my life, everything would be laid out in straight rows, controlled and organized and predictable. No deep gashes or emptied places.

But as I walk through the Italian Garden, prim and proper in its predictable rows, I realize something. I much prefer the free-flowing beauty of grace. Tightly controlled predictability, which used to seem so desirable, now awakens within me nothing more than boredom (when, occasionally, everything seems under my control), and stress (when my clenched hands grasp for perfect order in an unpredictable world). Grace surprises me again and again with awe and joy and a deep desire to pour myself out at the feet of the One whose love holds me secure, the One who fills all of my used up and empty places with His own glorious beauty.