The world is full of beautiful places. Photographs of mountain tops and valleys inspire awe and wonder. Actually being in these scenic places evokes visceral feelings of joy and peace. The sheer weight of their glorious beauty can take our breath away and bring us to tears.
We think of these wonders as places of natural beauty. But if we had been alive to see them long ago at the time of their forming, I’m sure we would have shed a different type of tears. They were born of trauma and crushing forces. To see what had been familiar crumpled up, to see the fiery explosions or dams of ice scouring away the world we once knew, what pain and sorrow we would have felt!
All of earth’s geological beauty is evidence of her worst trauma. The places that resonate with our souls are scars from the past. Peaks stand like proud flesh, like puckered, granulation scars. Many were ancient sea beds now broken and thrust above the clouds by crashing continents. Canyons were once plains carved out by powerful forces of erosion. Beaches have endured so much continuous pounding there’s nothing left but little grains of sand. Volcanic cones now covered in snow were once fiery, destructive eruptions. Island paradises were born by repeatedly ripping open wounds in the sea floor, building up stone layer by layer.
What we see now is the aftermath of ages past. The edges have been softened by time. Green has covered the blacked, bleeding crust. The places that are still raw are that much more beautiful for their rugged endurance against the elements. Life overwhelms the bleakness of pain. Even in the driest desert, life has a way of persevering, of winning. Trees cling to mountain sides, and flowers blush the hillsides. We look and see only the beautiful landscape that is, not the trauma that was.
I feel like so many times people only want to show the world our smooth glass faces. We act like placid pools of normalcy are the only acceptable beauty. We offer the world our meadows, but as beautiful as they are, that is not all we have to give. Through experience, both with my own trauma and observing other survivors, I know that our most breathtaking beauty sometimes takes the form of granulation tissue and fault lines.
Our souls seek mountains, valleys, and the constant rhythm of waves. There is something alluring in damaged beauty that has healed into spectacular vistas. We do not just look for it out in nature, but in the truth of each other. The peace that surrounds us in the wild places is the same peace we seek in our shared stories. We long to find a hero in our fellow man. We want to see that enduring the test of time is possible, that we can come out the other side stunningly, dramatically beautiful. People long to experience hope that life can overcome the ravaged places. Humanity wants to see that someone else has not only survived, but also thrived.
For some reason we think of the hero as someone out there, someone else. Yet tragedy is common to all mankind. We all have experienced the destructive forces of this broken world. We each have the opportunity to be the hero someone else needs. That is the power of our story, our testimony.
Transformation from jagged rocks into a lush landscape doesn’t happen without the power of life. It is life which softens and covers the rugged mountainsides. It is the happy little trees that live in impossible places. It is the flowers that bloom where life seems difficult.
Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” (John 14:6) He also said, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, KJV). If we want to see our rugged places softened over time, we must allow God to transform our scorched and wounded souls with life—his life. It is God’s sacrificial love that can heal any canyon of self-esteem eroded by public opinion. When the winds of change have turned our heart into a desert, it is the Living Water that can make an oasis for life to return and thrive—a place of joy not only for you, but also for the thirsty world we live in (John 4:14, 7:38). In him, our roots can grow deep again (Jer. 17:7-8). Those traumatic events that stand out like mountains in our lives can be turned into beautiful scenes of hope.
When the changes begin to take place, people will flock from near and far to experience the beauty of it. That is the power of your testimony. No one expects you to always be a placid, glass pond. The dynamic beauty life overcoming destruction is a world changing power. Let all the facets of you be seen. Don’t hide them. Instead of trying to cover up the scars left by trauma in this world, be transformed by Life and then share the beauty of it—even the parts that are still a little jagged. The hope that others will experience will be far more than the joy of a jagged mountain peak. You can be a shining, beautiful vista for all the world to see or simply for the lone hiker lost in the woods.