After my husband and son rake leaves in our yard, their reward comes hours later. They sit around a burning pile of foliage and have a father-son talk. However, the next morning their hangout is reduced to a pile of ashes.
I realize it’s the natural course of things. When something is consumed by fire, ashes are all that remains. But as I consider the supernatural course of things, the opposite happens: Ashes become something beautiful.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” – Isaiah 61:3 NLT
It’s been a tough week. I could use some ash transformation. About a week ago, I had a health scare. Last week, my brother-in-law was moved to the intensive care unit. Yesterday, I attended a funeral where three children grieved the loss of their mother.
This offer of beauty for ashes seems like an unfair exchange. The Giver of the beauty is either extremely generous or He sees some unknown value in the potential of the ashes.
I marvel at both possibilities.
The promise God made to Israel in Isaiah 61:3 is extravagant and divinely empathetic. Israel mourned the loss of being in their homeland. God mourned the loss of their allegiance to Him. And yet, He offers to comfort and rename them “oaks of righteousness,” planted for His own glory.
Whatever represents our latest disappointment, devastation or failure, there is hope for our ashes too. It smolders beneath a heap of what might have been. And yet, the charred pieces of our lives are waiting to change into something promising.
When I seek ash transformation, a “joyous blessing” and “festive praise” may seem like a distant possibility. Thankfully, I don’t have to rake a yard full of leaves to have a talk with God the Father. He is a consuming Fire (Hebrews 12:28-29). Time spent in His Presence reduces my hurts and hindrances and ignites my potential in His grace.
The potential lies in my willingness to go from sinful to purposeful; from broken to believing and from being limited to living for Christ.
There is power in admitting we’ve been burned by the unwanted or the unexpected. The degree of the burn may reveal our lack of planning, our lack of knowledge or our lack of control. But the opportunity for transformation is far more than we can imagine.
Life fails to be perfect but God’s grace never fails to be beautiful.
As the Giver of beauty, He values our ashes deeply. His Son died to claim us and them as His own (Isaiah 53:1-6). In essence, God invites us to give Him what makes us feel worthless, defeated and unseen so He can display who He is — Worthy, Victor, and Lord of All.
The ashes in my soul continue to churn in His truth. Health-wise, I feel much better now. I continue to believe God for my brother-in-law’s recovery. I’m praying the grieving family will rest in the grip of God’s grace.
Receiving our ash transformation is beautiful beyond belief. The full reveal takes time and it requires our trust. As God renames of our ashes and plants us in His purpose we begin to burn brightly with hope for the heart and joy to the soul.
Still processing the election results? For more reflection, read my post "How This Election Elevates My Thinking" on Life Letter Cafe!