Editor’s Note: Author John Sowers adds in the author’s note “I began writing these letters to my daughters in early 2020 — one year after I lost my mom, their nana. I felt empty knowing there were no more conversations with her. No more stories or laughs or wise insights. She was gone. I started writing these letters to speak my full heart to my daughters, to tell them I love them and pass on everything given to me.” In his letters, he shares insights, kindnesses, fatherly wisdom, and his passes on his love of God and his faith just as we are instructed to do in Deuteronomy 6 and all throughout the Word. Enjoy!
May 10, 2020
Dear Rosie, Dass, and Evangeline,
You girls know Ms. Dianne. She is kind. And not just in the surface way. Not like those who dress up and smile at parties but are mean at home. Ms. Dianne is kind in her bones. She is kind to everyone she meets. Gentle and strong. She raised four children, adopted another, and has spent years helping people in need. When you’re around her, you can feel her peace. When she smiles, you feel warmth radiating from her.
When I think of beautiful people, Ms. Dianne comes to mind. She has spent her life making good choices, choosing kindness, light, and love. She quietly chooses beauty, and by choosing beauty, she becomes it. After years of choosing beauty, it resides in her eyes and heart, resting on her head like an invisible crown.
Beautiful is something you are and something you become.
Beauty is hard to put into words. Sometimes it is seen dancing between lines of poetry or songs. But mostly, like the sun, it is too brilliant to behold. You have to look sideways at it, peeking through your fingers. Beauty makes you shield your eyes.
Beauty is something you see and feel. It is something you remember. Somewhere deep in our cells, hidden in some lost language, is a longing for beauty. This longing is an eternal one, bursting with divine things, with Paradise Lost and Will-Be-Found, with the farewell and the return. Beauty calls us home.
Beauty is alive, shimmering with movement. It is not passive, not just something to look at, like a gold-framed painting in a museum. It is active. Moving and breathing. It creates and replicates, blooming on the surface and in the hearts of everyone it touches.
Beauty is advocacy. Calling us to something infinite, to Someone radiant and full of glory. Beauty does not wilt or surrender in the never-sleeping darkness. Beauty is stern and unyielding. Like the White Tree of Gondor, blooming defiantly in the face of shadow.
Beauty hovers over all of us, existing in our darkness and our light. It exists in the withered frailty of life. In the breathless triumph of death. Beauty lies in our sleeping and waking, our innocence and tragedy. Beauty is found in small, unseen gestures of love, humming softly in every act of kindness. Beauty is everywhere.
You are beautiful. You are made in the image of the beautiful God.
Words can be ugly. Choices can be ugly. Actions can be ugly. Some people make ugly choices and develop ugly character. But all people, in their created essence, are beautiful.
The world will try to define beauty for you. They will say beauty is a product to purchase. Buy this; become beautiful. They spend billions of dollars trying to convince you, telling you to add something to your lives to become beautiful. They say beauty is found in an object, like a dress or makeup. They say beauty is an image to become. They will bombard you with images on your phone, on your computer, on televisions, and in magazines. Saying you need to buy or change something to be beautiful.
Here’s a secret: You don’t need to buy or change anything. Beauty is a heart to cultivate and a character to develop. Like Ms. Dianne.
There are many pretty faces, models on the covers of magazines and stars in movies. There is nothing wrong with being pretty or wanting to be pretty, and I like buying you dresses and fingernail polish. But beauty is deeper, stronger, and more enduring than pretty. And some people with pretty faces have ugly hearts.
At the pinnacle of creation, God made man and woman in His image. He created you as a holy reflection, a walking, breathing, laughing, divine reflection. And I believe He made you to say something specific, to echo something about who He is inside your heart and outside to the world. I believe it is this holy word on repeat, whispering, “Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.”
We are beauty reflectors, changed from glory to glory.
His beauty shines on us when we lift our hearts and hands. Our brief and fragile lives are splintered reflections of infinite and immortal beauty.
Some of the most beautiful creatures go through the harshest struggles. They often come out of the struggle changed. Born again. Beautiful. Someone once said that we marvel at a butterfly’s beauty but seldom ponder the changes it has gone through to become beautiful. Without a cocoon, there would be no butterfly.
Flowers, too, are buried before they can bloom. Diamonds are formed under intense pressure and heat. Gold is purified by fire. No struggle, no diamond. No fire, no gold. In the same way, your beautiful life is formed through heat, pressure, and struggle. Struggle will come in different forms. Unfulfilled dreams. Lost relationships. Betrayal. Pain. I don’t wish this for you. But I’ve lived long enough to know the truth of Jesus: “In this world you will have trouble.” Struggle is your opportunity for growth and beauty.
But struggles can have a negative effect; some people never get over them. Some people choose to be bitter. They nourish those neg- ative thoughts. They blame and lash out at others. Some people stay bitter. They live in the struggle, even if it happened years and decades ago. For the rest of their lives, they carry the struggle as their story, the story they tell themselves and others. But others forgive, learn wisdom, and emerge from the struggle humbler and more beautiful. As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote,
The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an ap- preciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.
We are made and marked by struggle. Sometimes we are even scarred by it. The scars are quiet reminders of the pain and the process, poor choices and failures. My struggles have left me more accepting and less judgmental of others and myself, more grateful for my friends and the grace of God. One of my favorite writers, my friend Myquillyn Smith, wisely said, “It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”
Beautiful is something you are and something you become.
You are beautiful,
Excerpted with permission from Say All the Unspoken Things by John Sowers, copyright John Sowers.
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What letter(s) would you write to your loved ones? To your children? What would you tell them about themselves and what God says about them? What would you tell them about your faith? Come share with us! We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily