Saturday, 20 October 2012

Why the title?

Sometime last year I was reading the book of Philippians with a friend. We came to chapter 4, verse 8, which says, “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
It was a verse I’d read many times before, but I suddenly realised that all this time I’d been hearing it in the context of ‘stay away from whatever is untrue, whatever is ignoble, whatever is wrong,’ etcetera, when we actually need to actively replace these things with good things.
That’s a pretty big call. When was the last time you switched on the television and saw something ‘pure and lovely,’ even on the shows that celebrate things like family and friendships?
Which brings me to my choice of title, which I mulled over for some time. I’ve never enjoyed coming up with titles, but a while ago I came across the phrase ‘beauty for ashes’. It stuck out for me and I wondered if it was a Biblical term. Turns out it comes from Isaiah chapter 61 verse 3:
"To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy of mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified."
You may note two things here:  
1)  This isn’t talking about ‘beauty’ as the phrase is used in magazines and such, is it? You are correct. While I assume that definition of beauty will come up often as I talk about the media, beauty can be found not just on people or in tubs of anti-ageing cream, but in everything from nature to people’s actions.
By the same token, brokenness and despair are also found, but what this verse illustrates is the promise that, one day, the Lord will change the bad for the good, our pain for joy. Not that everything that has ever happened to us will be made pointless, but it will be used for His glory and our good. He does that in many ways today, but it’s often hard to see.
      2)  Technically, I called the blog ‘Ashes and Beauty,’ not Beauty for Ashes. Also correct. This was, at first, because other forms of the phrase were taken, but it’s already grown on me. Sometimes, ashes and beauty do seem to be two different things, but ‘ashes’ also indicates it once used to be something whole. 
The whole concept can be confusing, but take for example, Downton Abbey (hey, it’s historical drama at its best). The characters and setting are beautiful on the outside, but plagued by drama inside (will Mary and Matthew live happily ever after? Will Branson be accepted by the family?). Prime example of beauty and pain co-existing, but we also see the good (Edith finds her place during the war, Violet gives Mr Molesley the flower award) 
If you're still with me, awesome, because hopefully this explains where I’m coming from for future posts. Promise I won’t write about Downton Abbey too much.

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