Loving Ugly and Struggling Pretty

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I’ve noticed recently that I take grace with a grain of salt.

I don’t know when this became the case, but for a while now, I’ve been behaving on the instinct that though I believe in God’s great mercy, I haven’t quite earned it, so I can’t quite rest in it.

Um…miss the point much?

But this has been the understanding I’ve been unconsciously shouldering! And as result of not understanding grace, I have not accepted grace, and not accepting grace, I have become terrible at offering it.

See, I have an unfortunate heart. We all do.

Ugly and scraggly. A little scabby, a little slimy. Small and dying—no life to pump in, no life to pump out.

When I’ve thought about surrendering my whole heart, I’ve always felt guilty about the parts I haven’t wanted to hand over. But those weren’t the only parts God wasn’t getting because somewhere along the line, I made an assumption.

I decided that there were pieces of my heart God didn’t want.

For so long, I have been handing him pieces as I’ve deemed them fixable, while feeling guilty for having parts I think are too far gone. I’ve been frustrated when I am unable to fix my own brokenness or clean my own heart-junk.

I’ve  tried to hide it or compensate for it for so long, but I’m tired. And I just long for someone to love my ugly.

But he wants those bits just as badly as I want them to be loved! He wants this shriveled, crusty little heart enough to die for it.

He longs for our ugly, dirty, and broken. There is nothing to redeem in perfect, whole, and shiny. There’s no dependence on him in what I insist on healing myself.

Penny & Sparrow is a folk duo I’ve really come to respect. (Stick with me, it’ll circle back. I promise.) Their music is beautiful and at times surprising. Their lyrics are thoughtful and so damn honest it sometimes hurts.

As I’ve been wrestling in my brokenness over the past few weeks, it has become apparent that God has been trying to get my attention—he has been trying to ask for my ugly heart again and again. A stanza of their song ‘To Haunt, to Startle’ has come to mind during this wrestling, God reminding me of his invitation.

So, choke back smoke and cough up glass…
This whole place is ending; know that it’s not built to last.
When you hear nothing…
And you feel less…
Your struggle is pretty,
Sit still, and know that I know what is best.

The pain in the ugly both within and without are temporary. We are invited into something lasting. We are invited to hand over small, battered hearts in a daily struggle. It is that struggle that God finds pretty. It is in the wrestling he is well pleased. It is in the stillness he begins to bind our wounds.

This is the gospel I’ve had to preach to myself over and over in the past few weeks. It’s the gospel we need to preach to ourselves daily.

So on this Labor Day, as we pause and rest before plunging in again, I want to invite you in to stillness. I want to invite you to remember that your ugly is loved and your struggle is found pretty.

Loving Ugly quote

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