If there ever were dreams
That were lofty and noble,
They were my dreams at the start;
And the hopes for life's best
Were the hopes that I harbored
Down deep in my heart;
But my dreams turned to ashes,
My castles all crumbled,
My fortune turned to loss,
So I wrapped it all
In the rags of my life
And laid it at the cross!
Something beautiful, something good —
All my confusion He understood;
All I had to offer Him
Was brokenness and strife,
But He made something beautiful of my life.
Lyrics by Gloria Gaither / Music by Bill Gaither / Copyright © 1971
Suzanne, our firstborn, was always the "project kid" around our house. As long as we were making something, building something, painting something, cooking something, she was a contented child. If I was washing dishes, she was standing on her little chair beside me, he arms elbow-deep in the dishwater, talking a mile a minute. If I was making cookies, she was rolling dough and cutting it into Thanksgiving pumpkins, Valentine hearts, Easter bunnies, or stars of Bethlehem, then sprinkling the shapes with colored sugar and silver pellets or smearing the fresh-backed symbols with icing.
When she was almost 3, she was working one day with tempera paints and her little table in the corner of the family room. From the kitchen, out of the corner of my eye I watched as she confidently made great strokes of strong colors across the large sheet of paper that covered the whole surface of her table. She kept dipping into water and paint, as children love to do, when — on one trip from paint to paper — a big black blob dropped from her wet brush right into the middle of her picture. I watched her consider it, then try to make something that seemed intentional out of the blob. But because her paper was soaked with too much too-wet paint, the black paint just spread out in little rivulets in all directions, invading the lovely yellows, reds and greens.
I heard her feet pattering across the living room to the bathroom. She came back with a washcloth and tried to soak up some of the paint, rubbing the soggy paper wiht the end of the cloth. Soon she had rubbed a hole in the center of her picture and the colors around it had turned an ugly umber.
It wasn't long before she was in tears. She picked up the drippy mess and brought it into the kitchen where I was working
"Oh Mommy," she sobbed, "I tried to make you something beautiful but just look! I dropped some paint." She heaved and caught her breath. "I tried to fix it, but it just got worse and now just look!"
I took the soggy painting and laid it on the counter, then knelt down beside her, took her in my arms, and let her cry out her anguish and disappointment. Finally, when she was spent and could hear me, I said, "I think there is one more bog peice of paper in the craft closet. Let me check."
I went to where we kept supplies and, sure enough, there was a clean sheet left. You should have seen her face when she took the paper and skipped off to her table to begin again!
So often we are like Suzanne and her painting. We start out with noble dreams and aspirations. We harbor high hopes and lofty ambitions. We make up our minds not to make to make the mistakes our parents made, not to choose the paths our sisters chose, not to mess up as our brothers did.
Perhaps the best thing that can happen to us is to realize that we are not self-sufficient. Like a child, we can take the mess we've made of things to a heavenly Father and say, "Oh Lord, I wanted so to make something beautiful of my life, but just look..."
The amazing thing about Jesus is that He doesn't just patch up our lives. He doesn't just "make do" out of what we have left. He gives us a brand-new sheet, a clean slate to start over with. This miracle called "grace" is this: no matter when we realize we've made shabby gods and give control to Him, He makes us new creations. With God, it's never Plan B or second best. It's always Plan A. And, if we let Him, He'll make something beautiful of our lives.