by Charissa Andrews
St. Charles, MO
“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3
When my boys were younger, they loved to trade things with each other. They would swap just about anything: match box cars, stickers, stuffed animals, metal trinkets they would find deep down in the dirt, army guys, gum and candy. You name it, they would trade it. Some of their trades went well. Both parties came to the table with something valuable and both parties left the table with something they deemed valuable. However sometimes a deal would go bad. I’d hear something like this:
“Give it back!”
“No way, you already traded!”
“But it isn’t fair!”
“Too bad, you said yes and Mommy said we HAVE to keep our word.”
“I don’t want this anymore, give me my trade back. This guy’s arm won’t even stay on, it wasn’t a fair trade.”
“I don’t think it was broken when I gave it to you, you probably broke it.”
That would continue until I intervened and tried to sort out their bad deal. It didn’t take us long to realize that this trading stuff was not working out so good, and that we needed to find a solution. We came up with an “Even Steven” approach. We talked thoroughly with our boys about being fair. We emphasized treating others the way you want to be treated. We gave examples of fair trades and unfair trades. We set up this whole trading system based on honesty and complete disclosure. Because who in their right mind would give something that is good and valuable and precious and holds worth in exchange for something that was dirty and broken and ugly and worthless?!? We all agreed that no one does that. We give something and expect to get something fairly equal in return.
It has been some time since those “Even Steven” days, about twelve years. I hadn’t thought about those days in quite some time. Then I came across this verse in Isaiah. Don’t you just love it when God’s perfect word goes and messes up your theology? 🙂 I began to think about the “trading deals” I’ve done with God. When I came to Him as a 17 year old girl, I brought to the table: insecurities, brokenness, filth, hurt, betrayal, dysfunction…ashes. And in turn He traded me: peace, wholeness, cleanliness, love, forgiveness, security…beauty. There have been countless times since then that I have gone to my Jesus and made, humanly speaking, an unfair trade. I have given Him weakness and in exchange He gave me His strength. I have come to Him empty and He has filled me up. I have handed Him a heart that is shattered and He has handed me a balm and wrapped me in His loving arms. I have come to him weak kneed and wobbly legged and He traded me for a solid foundation to rest on.
So now when I ask that question: Who in their right mind would give something that is good, and valuable, and precious, and holds worth in exchange for something that is dirty, and broken, and ugly, and worthless? I can’t help but whisper….Jesus. My Jesus.
Do you have ashes? Do you hold nothing but remains of something you once loved? A dream you used to hold on to? Would you give them to Christ? He will give you beauty in return.
Are you mourning? Do you grieve in the deepest parts of your heart? Are there times that you sob into your pillow, not sure that anyone else understands? Would you be willing to give that mourning to Christ? He will give you the oil of joy in return.
Is your heart heavy? Are there situations around you that are out of your control? Are you carrying burdens that seem to weigh you down? Would you release that heavy heart to Christ? He will give you a garment of praise in return.
I’m so glad God doesn’t play by my “Even Steven” rules. I’m so glad that He can take a little and make something great out of it.
It’s important to note the last part of this verse. “…that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified” It is so that He might be glorified. Ladies, God wants to give us a “good trade”, but it is for His glory. Let’s walk circumspectly in regards to how we handle the transaction. Don’t despise the heart break, the emptiness, the brokenness that we have to offer. Give Him the ashes and receive the beauty and point all the glory to Him.