Sunday, February 26, 2017
Sunday Afternoon Tea - A missionary of beauty
One day last week, I was listening to a speaker on TV when my ears perked up similar to Florentine's when she hears a can opening. Words have that affect on me, especially when someone is speaking about a subject dear to my heart. Beauty.
He was talking about his work in slums and inner cities when he stated that people living in these places have two different kinds of poverty. They have an obvious financial poverty but they also have a poverty of beauty. He went on to say that one slum area where he had ministered was only a few miles from a place of extreme natural beauty but most people living in the slum lived their entire life within the confines of the bleak neighborhoods.
A poverty of beauty. I'd never thought of it that way before.
I pondered his words all week, thinking of how most of us will never be missionaries in foreign lands (although some readers are) and how few of us will be called into relief agencies to assist the poorest among us. Some may venture into a slum area to feed the homeless or work in a food bank but we haven't actually lived in a place of such extreme poverty.
His words caused me to recall the townhouse where we lived prior to purchasing our house in the country. Circumstances at the time prevented us renting anything nicer. Don't get me wrong, it was far from being a slum but it wasn't a very nice neighborhood, either. We would come to find out that there was a drunk living on one side of us and young drug dealers at the far end.
There were four townhouses in the one building, the outside was dark and dingy. Next to each front door was the large garbage container that was to be rolled out to the parking lot each week. It was absolutely depressing to think this is where I would live for who knows how long.
Memories of the beautiful house we had to sell at a loss returned each time I passed the garbage by the front door. But there was a difference between us and the other tenants for I viewed this setback as temporary and this was their world. Instead of remaining depressed, I decided to become a Missionary of Beauty.
I wrote long ago about the spiritual warfare of decorating (and received some amusing emails such as... huh?). I didn't have a name for it but it was my way of representing Christ in less than perfect circumstances. Undoubtedly the influence of Edith Schaeffer in my early spiritual thinking. So I moved an old wooden chair outside in front of the only window facing the parking lot, next to that porch with the trash by the door.
On the chair I placed a pot with beautiful flowers growing. I can't recall what they were but they were most likely red geraniums. They are my favorite deck flowers, especially when next to yellow daisies. One day, I saw where the family who lived next door had also placed flowers in the front of their house. I had my first convert and just a little more beauty to make one smile.
It was only about a year later that we applied for a government loan that allowed low income families to purchase houses in the country. That loan, combined with living in an area where rural houses are not expensive, enabled us to purchase the home where we have now lived for over eleven years. The small house I love even more than my former "dream house".
I didn't know that first day when I walked past the large garbage container that my husband having to go on Disability would be the very thing that helped us own our own house again just over a year later. I didn't know God was sending me through a short season of again living in such financial poverty. But I did know He had made me a missionary of both Christ and beauty while there. I shared both to each of our neighbors as God opened a door.
I still recall the day the neighbor's children came over to pick up homemade cookies I'd promised the family and saw the look on their face when they walked past the trash and through the front door. For what they saw was... beauty. Not perfect by any means for the room they walked into held only our dining room furniture (the bedrooms were on the third level and the only place for our sofa and chairs was in the basement level) but decorated with pretty things nonetheless.
It reminded me of the time Christopher was a little boy and we lived in our colonial style house. He told me the neighbors thought we were rich because our house looked so nice. I had to laugh for while we did have some nice pieces of furniture we had been able to purchase through the years and some lovely inherited furniture from both parents... so much of the decorating that made it beautiful was picked up at Goodwill, garage sales, and flea markets for years and years.
We are just passing through this fallen world, being sojourners whose Kingdom is a place of beauty beyond our wildest imagination says the Bible. So while we are here, I can't think of anything better (other than obviously sharing salvation in Christ) than to be missionaries of His Beauty in such a dark and unsettled world.
Hmmm... I think there is more to ponder here. See you next week.
Image: Feathered Friends by Mary Smith - I love this artwork. The house is very similar to our Colonial style house we had to sell and the child looks much like Christopher did when we lived there.