When Life Isn’t Pretty

(This message was borrowed from Jan Fuller, Elon University Chaplain. Find her full message at https://www.truittcenterblog.com/post/for-times-that-are-not-pretty)
“It’s not pretty.” I have heard and said this so many times lately. The complexity and uncertainty that we live with is taking a toll on us.
Racism is not pretty; it never was. Politics have gotten harder and more ugly, with more consequence. Division is deeper. Covid is as strong as ever, isolating and discouraging us. Teaching and counseling are harder by zoom; we possess less focus and patience. The sum total of all of these, the strain and stress we are bearing or absorbing, is really not pretty.
There is an old story about things that are ugly and mistaken that has held me together through many ugly moments, even failure.
There was a calligrapher who came to the Master to finish her training. It took time; she gathered new skills and experience, new strokes and brushes and ink. New colors. New confidence.
The day for the final exam arrived. She was given a large canvas and a text to write, while the Master went away. Painstakingly, she began her art, one letter and word at a time. As she was almost finished, and felt happy with the way her canvas looked, her brush accidentally flicked drops of ink across the canvas. Her heart sank. Before her eyes, she watched black blobs appear across her canvas, over her carefully placed words. It was ruined. Tears ran down her face as shecontemplated failure.
At the end of the day, the Master returned and surveyed the damaged canvas. Then he picked up a brush and added a few strokes to the canvas, transforming one ink splash into a flower, then another into a bee. The apprentice joined in, creating of another blob a vine, connecting them with color and shape, creating on the text a garden thriving with birds, insects, and flowers. Finally, they stepped back very pleased, with a work of art before them, made from the errors of the day.
I think of God as an artist, but you can imagine the universe, the energy of life, the arc of justice, the winds of time. What we make now is imperfect, even deeply flawed. The Artist pulls it together and makes beauty of it, adding flourishes, blending our efforts with Hers. It might not be pretty, but it becomes beautiful, appropriate, and finished.
We do our best and along the way it becomes enough.
However today seems, however your efforts come out on paper, in class, on Zoom, know that you are not alone and that the finished product will be perfect, perfect enough. Beautiful and full of hope.”
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