I will give them a crown to replace their ashes, and the oil of gladness to replace their sorrow, and clothes of praise to replace their spirit of sadness.
Isaiah 61:3 NCV
The bride-to-be asked me to make her four-tiered wedding cake. As a close friend of the family, I was thrilled. Until she told me the design she had in mind.
I wasn’t quite sure I believed her when she said: “I want it to look like a tree trunk. And I want it to be gray.”
Surely I had misunderstood. Surely this sweet bride hadn’t just asked me for a gray wedding cake.
Only, she had. And I found myself agreeing to make it according to her specifications, though everything inside of me rebelled at the idea. Wedding cakes were supposed to be white. Pristine. Perfect. Not. . .gray.
In the weeks that followed I went back and forth with her, making sure I hadn’t misunderstood. The tree trunk part made sense. That particular style was trending at the time. But. . .gray? Really?
Sometimes Things Get Worse Before They Get Better
I had no choice. I’d committed to make the cake for this precious young woman. The day before the wedding, through my grumbling and complaining, I baked twelve layers of white cake.
Then filled them with icky gray icing.
And crumb-coated them in icky gray icing.
And decorated each tier in icky gray icing.
And Then Something Kind of Crazy Happened.
I stacked those tiers together, tossed on some flowers, and found myself looking at one of the most adorable wedding cakes I’d ever seen.
In that moment, I saw the whole thing through the bride’s eyes. She had known all along that the end result would be beautiful. I hadn’t, of course. . .but she had, and that’s all that mattered. Those shades of gray had merged into an exquisite story–whole, complete, lacking nothing.
That’s How Life Is Sometimes.
We face really ugly situations. They flood over us in icky shades of gray. We get depressed. Hopelessness creeps in. And the hits keep coming. It’s gray on gray on gray. We see no beauty in any of it. We drag our feet through heaps of ash convinced we can’t possibly come out unscathed.
I went through a season like this many years ago. It started with a heartbreaking relational breakup. On the tail end of that, my father passed away. Then my younger sister died very unexpectedly a few months later. Weeks after that, I fell coming down some stairs and shattered my tibia, fibula, and several bones in my foot. I had to have surgery to be pinned, plated, and screwed back together.
Oh, the symbolism.
While recovering in a wheelchair for a couple of months I was hit with an unexpected work-related complication that completely caught me off-guard. I felt devastated–financially, emotionally, and physically. The ash heap was so deep I could barely see over it.
Then, from out of the Ashes. . .
God began to turn things around. My body healed. The work project miraculously self-corrected and brought in more money than expected. My broken heart began to mend. I still ached for those I had lost, but with God’s hand in mine I somehow navigated the rocky waters of grief without drowning.
It took time, but the Lord fulfilled that seemingly impossible promise from Isaiah 61. He turned my ashes into something of beauty.
Just like He turned that icky gray icing into a lovely wedding cake.
What Shades of Gray are you Facing Today?
I don’t know where you are. I don’t know how gray the situation seems or how deep the ash heap. But I do know that God will, on His own perfect timetable, bring something beautiful out of it.
It’s not a cliche. He really does bring beauty from ashes.
Like that bride, your heavenly Father can envision the finished product. And He sees very clearly that you, my friend, aren’t done yet. In fact, He’s got many beautiful roads ahead for you.
It’s not easy to see when shadows encompass me, Lord, but I will keep trusting that You will bring something beautiful out of what I’m walking through. I choose to put my trust in You today. Amen.