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  • Writer's pictureBurton W. Cole

The Amazing Beauty of Ugliness

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

When I crave a beautiful place, I lace up my hiking shoes and head a few miles up the road to tiny Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park.

The three miles of trails in this northeast Ohio haven weave up rocks, across ledges, down gorges, through creeks, and around caves. The paths wind through trees, ferns, wildflowers, and waterfalls. The whole thing wows me with some of the most amazing examples of God’s natural art show.

I love it there. It’s beautiful. No, it’s more than that. It’s stunningly gorgeous.

But why?

For all its grandeur, Nelson Ledges is made up of a lot of nasty, ugly parts.

None of the trees are perfectly symmetrical. They are scarred, with rough bark and gnarled roots that twist and poke out of the ground, or cling to the sides of cliffs.

Those jagged, upended rock walls are crooked, craggy messes of grays and discolorations. The trails are nothing more than dirt covered in dead leaves, rotted twigs, and plain, old everyday stones.

Any single feature of that place is something that if I had dragged it home and dumped it into the living room would have given my mom convulsions. I can hear her screaming, “Burton William, get that filthy thing out of my house this instant.”

But all that ugliness blended together creates one of the most beautiful places on earth—or at least in northeast Ohio. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been there and breathed, “Thank you, Lord, for such awesome beauty.”

It was during one of those times that I felt like I heard God gushing right back at me, “That’s what you are to Me.”

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is I Corinthians 12:12-31, in which Paul tells us that we, as the Body of Christ, are comprised of a messy bunch of individual parts.

He points out that the human body isn’t just an eye or an ear or a foot. And what about all those yucky guts and icky intestines inside you? If your skin decided it no longer wanted to be part of you and skedaddled, and all those slimy innards spilled out, it would be gross to look at. You need every part of your body to make up the beauty of you.

Nelson Ledges reminds me of the Body of Christ. Outside of Christ, I’m a disgusting mess. But when we accept Jesus as our Savior, we allow God, the Master Creator, to knit us into this wonderfully awesome tapestry known as the Body of Christ. We’ve been made into something wonderful. We have become part of something beautiful.

Remember that when you feel too ugly, too untalented, or that you are just not enough. You were made to perfectly fit a part of God’s gorgeous artwork.

(This post originally appeared Jan. 9, 2019, on the Storyteller Squad.)

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