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Beauty from Ashes

"I was the Lost Sheep. The Good Shepherd sought me even as I ran from Him, eager to go my own way, and He rescued me from the desperate pit of despair in which I was drowning." Join our guest blogger, Brian Miller, as he shares openly from his own 'Beauty from Ashes' story.

Beauty from Ashes

A little girl with hair of wild flames
So lost in a spell, she’d forget her own name.
Her demons would scream in her head, “Take the blame.
You’ll never escape your disgrace
Nor ever take flight from this place.
Get used to guilt’s bitter embrace―
The torturous, bittersweet taste
Of what you have done, it’s your shame.”
 
Her green eyes would well up with tears;
She wished she could just disappear―
No goodbyes to her puppeteers.
She’d slip away to some silent plateau
Where she could be alone with the snow,
And no one would hear her numb cries
As the wind whispers her lullabies,
And she yearns for lost peace to draw near.
 
So pretty she is,
But her eyes they hold years
Of anguish and sorrow, of unquenchable fears.
Vacant, she wanders and feels so unloved;
The spark she had once
Drowned by the flood
Of unfinished plans and unreachable dreams
Of a heart shattered and regrets by the ream.
Her life’s ‘ever marked
By all that she’s lost―
Fleeting good times, but at what cost?
And now she lies all alone once again,
Longing for silence, this nightmare to end.
Oh, that she could go back to when
Her life had such promise ‘fore her future began;
She can’t even recall how to say “amen.”
 
Scorched and scalded, she’s resigned
To all that’s left―
The awful grind.
Where’s some meaning; her to find?
How could she have been so blind?
Teardrops languish on her long lashes
As she hopes against hope
For beauty from ashes.
Perhaps I’m being presumptuous when I think out loud that everyone, on some level or another, can identify with that girl. We all feel alone, regret, shame, guilt, sorrow at some point, whether we admit it to ourselves or not. We all experience emotional trauma; it’s the human condition in this fallen world. Some push those feelings aside or try to drown them or mask them or distract themselves with pursuits of pleasure. Others feel them far more intensely and can become consumed and even immobilized by their pain.
Let me tell you about this girl, for I know her all too well. You see, in a way, I am she, and, no, not in a gender-confused kind of way. Let me give you some background.

Some of you were vaguely introduced to my story in my first guest blog post―“The Right Ingredients”―for Reasons for Hope a month ago. Here is a little more to the story:
I was the Lost Sheep. The Good Shepherd sought me even as I ran from Him, eager to go my own way, and He rescued me from the desperate pit of despair in which I was drowning.
I was the Prodigal Son. Instead of treasures in Heaven, I desired pleasures on Earth, and was left poor, wretched, and brokenhearted until, like the young man in the parable, I “came to my senses” and realized that my Father still loved me and was waiting for me with open arms.

Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

That verse was one I clung to like a life preserver for the last several of my “lost years.” After living like I was invincible and entitled in my late teens and 20s, I reaped the consequences of that whirlwind as I entered my next decade―losing my job, my wife, and nearly my life in a terrible accident, and then my Camaro, my home, and finally, my little brother―in what felt like one fell swoop. Actually, it was 18 months, but it felt like one crushing wave.

I wasn’t willing to seek the Lord with all my heart, because like a fool, I continued to trust in myself more than I trusted Him.

Though I believed that verse to be true, I wasn’t willing to seek the Lord with all my heart, because like a fool, I continued to trust in myself more than I trusted Him. Accordingly, I continued to spiral in a macabre dance with depression and an early death for several more years, still pridefully struggling to fix everything I’d broken, a former “Mr. Most-Likely-to-Succeed,” failing worse with every futile effort and ill-conceived plan.

A decade ago, I came across the following passage:

Isaiah 61:1, 2b, 3a NKJV

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound … To comfort all who mourn … To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Poor. Brokenhearted. Captive. That was me!
The phrase “beauty for ashes” particularly struck a chord with me. At the time, I had furiously begun writing poetry to try to deal with my intense feelings of loss and despair. Late one night in the summer of 2012, the poem that you read above poured out in 15 minutes. I kidded myself that I had a muse; the reality was that I had created a character to bear all my feelings of utter sadness and desolation.
Praise God that in His matchless grace, He took my regret, my sorrow―all the burdens that I had sought to carry myself. A few months later, I woke up one morning and realized that I couldn’t do it anymore, that I needed Him. I called out to Him, and though He saw the wretch that I was, He loved me anyway. He proved Himself faithful and continues to prove all His promises are forever true.
When I finally sought Him with my whole heart, He was there. He rescued the helpless sheep. I returned to my Father’s house, and He welcomed me and blessed me far beyond measure.
One of my favorite songs is the beautiful “The Love of God.” I hope you can identify as I do with the first verse, which goes like this:

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

The third verse is so eloquent and majestic:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

I’ll never be able to write enough about His amazing love that rescued this poor man who cried out to Him. He gave him undeserved beauty from ashes. He promises to do the same for you.
Author Bio:
Brian Miller is a longtime newspaper columnist and freelance writer. He and his wife Bethany, a fellow “preacher’s kid” (and talented musician and chef) split their time between Eveleth, MN, and South Padre Island, TX. Brian seeks to use lessons learned in his life of God’s unchanging love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness to bring hope to others who may be struggling. The Millers are seeking God’s guidance for future ministry opportunities and appreciate your prayers. You may write to him at bd1976@pm.me.

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