Beryl was a missionary to China in the 1940s. She faithfully pushed through missionary training in England which was several times interrupted by the war. But God's call was on her life and she determined to follow. Finally she and several other novice missionaries set out on their first journey to the land they all longed for -- China.
It was an arduous journey on a cargo ship through the Mediterranean, through the Suez canal into Red Sea and later the Arabian Sea. Eventually they arrived in India and finally went on to China. Conditions were bleak, but good practice for what they would soon face for years to come in China.
Less than two weeks after arriving in country, Beryl was traveling by Jeep up a treacherous road when the vehicle began to slide. It rolled down the hill mangling Beryl's body as it tumbled. When it came to a stop, her body lie lifeless beneath its wheels. After all her training, despite her hopes and dreams, she was ripped so abruptly from life. She never even arrived at her mission outpost. She was gone.
It's an ugly story.
But it is not so unique, is it?
We have all faced ugly stories in our life experiences. Those experiences where, as much as we struggle to make sense of them, sense cannot be made. They are simply ugly.
I have been studying Hebrews 9 lately which talks a lot about the Old Testament tabernacle. On-line I found a picture of a replica and I was surprised to learn it was ugly. I had always focused on the gold lavished Ark of the Covenant, and the gilded lampstand. But from the outside looking in, that place was not attractive. What happened there was also not attractive -- bloody sacrifice. How pointless it must've seemed from the outside looking in.
Students of the bible may gasp at this opinion. After all, isn't the tablernacle a symbolic image of Christ himself? But before you write me off too soon, consider the famous Isaiah 53 prophecy of Christ, "He had not beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire him..." (vs.2 NIV).
Sacrifice is ugly. It is bloody and gorey. If it were not so, I would have no trouble letting my seven-year-olds watch the movie, "The Passion."
But if we look through the ugliness, not with eyes of our flesh, but through the vision of the innermost soul, we find something more.
Although the sacrifice is ugly, the love that motivates it contains an unspeakable beauty that radiates and permeates even to the heavenly realm. It is as powerful as it is incomprehensible to the frail human mind.
We cannot understand God's ways. I do not know why we waste so much time trying. What kind of God would He be if finite, weak creatures as we could really comprehend his dealings?
So let's take a new look at the ugly things we face -- those things that make no sense and realize that God does not owe us an explanation, and even if he chose to give one, we'd likely not be able to grasp it, anyway.
Let's instead focus our efforts on the Love and Presence of God to motivate us through any and all sacrifices he calls us through. For in His Presence, all the ugliness we do not understand is burned away by His incomprehensible beauty.