Miss Charlotte is a small woman in her 70s. She's got a bob of tightly wound white curls, her quick eyes sparkle when she talks, she is always wearing bright jewel tones. She took the kids and I to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens on a day that threatened rain. She wore a hot pink rain coat.
The kids flitted around us happily as she supplied information on plants, she's an avid gardener and made an excellent tour guide.
We both stopped in front of a hydrangea with dayglow leaves the color of chartreuse, while the kids looked at tadpoles in a nearby pond.
"Isn't that interesting?" She said, "I wonder if that color's from lightning strike?"
I looked at her quizzically and she explained further, "Oh, yes, well, sometimes a trauma--like a lightning strike near a root system, for example, or a virus--can change the genetic structure of the plant, making it beautiful and saught after so then breeders will take cuttings of the traumatized plant and propogate them to get new plants that have the same features. It's funny, isn't it? How trauma can be what makes that plant sought after, what makes it beautiful?"
I tumbled it over in my mind, that there was an opprotunity to find beauty in trauma.
"Like redemption, isn't it?" I said.
"Yeah," I said, "that'll preach."
So often, when I think of past wounds or inherited family struggles or the suffering of the world, I rarely see their redeemed beauty, their potential for growth. I'm starting to.
My niece has osteogenesis imperfecta and broke another bone, the fourth or fifth this year. Her parents were investigated by social services for neglect until the genetics came back and she had her diagnosis. Because of it, we're all more aware of the very real danger some children are in, our eyes are opened and we're able to help or act or give or listen. That trauma is being redeemed.
There's a family history of abandonment and sexual abuse--what better person to become a counselor and powerful activist after finding the God of love?
Cancer, miscarriage, adultery, divorce, racial oppression, and on and on and on and on in a broken world.
By his wounds, we are healed. Increasingly, I believe that by our wounds, he heals the world.
In the Message in Colossians 1, Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of verses 18—20 reads:
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
There's a mantra I picked up from reading the work of shame reseacher Brené Brown, Everything Belongs.
The trauma hurt, it wasn't fair, it was evil, wrong. Ok, yes, it was all of those things.
But everything belongs.
God will take all that and somehow fit it into its proper place. If we let him.
all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies,
He's spacious and supreme.
Like that chartreuse-leafed hydrangea, the initial trauma, once healed, reveals a rare beauty that's now intentionally cultivated.
Now when I'm tempted toward discouragement and defeat in the face of unexpected trauma (and when is trauma ever well-anticipated?), I remember that everything belongs and God's playing the long game of redemption, and that damage is going to be beautiful.