Beauty in the chaos.
It’s my favorite thing about Asia. Well, that and the food and the weather and the people and the pace of life and the value of relationships and the really good coffee. All of those are my favorite. But this one is perhaps my most favorite.
There is chaos and there is beauty. An American with virgin-Asia eyes would most likely see only filth, garbage, and broken roads. They would see the absence of road rules, or at least of any of them being followed. They would see peeling stickers on every cement wall along with dogs and chickens and children on the streets where we don’t think they don’t belong. It really can be chaos, at least where our Western preferences are concerned. And yet, there is so much beauty. Hidden amongst the chaos is a stunning and awe-inspiring beauty that leaves you breathless. The trick is, unlike the always-in-your-face beauty of the West, with its manicured lawns and perfect law-abiding drivers, the beauty here is often hidden. Only those with eyes wiling to slow down enough to see get to drink of its delight. The flowers growing over the garbage. The bird landing on the jumbled wires. The crooked smile of the elderly woman offering hot coffee from her make-shift shop on the side of the road.
Of course, there is the obvious beauty as well—the gentle sway of the palm trees, the birds of paradise framing the doors of buildings, the put-together beauty of the petite jet-black haired woman sitting next to you. But it’s the hidden beauty I long to catch a glimpse of. I know that if I just open my eyes and see, if I look beyond the dirt and the poverty and pot holes that could be mistaken for a swimming pool—if I look beyond those, true treasure is found.
And isn’t this really how life really is? Pain and hurt and dissapointment make their presence known every chance possible while the beauty goes unnoticed. The radio plays song after song about being sad, broken, and without hope. We put our mental playlist of tragedy and despair and unmet expectations on repeat, all the while the real beauty in life is there, hiding subtly, framing not just our doorways but also our experiences. The beauty…it’s there. Everywhere we go and in everything we do, God gives us glimpses of His goodness. He whets our appetite for the beauty of a sinless world that needs no light but Christ Himself. If we look past the garbage and the broken bottles and the dogs digging for a bite to eat, we will see beauty.
And isn’t that what we as believers should be? Beauty amidst the chaos? The world lets out its cries of distress and hunger and horror and they long for the beauty. The world longs to find something beautiful, something poking out from underneath the chaos, something beautiful to frame the doorposts of life. They don’t know it, but they are longing for the light of Christ and the true hope that only He can offer. But where is the beauty they so desperately long for? Where are His image bearers? Where are those of us who have been summoned by a Great Grace to let our lights shine? Are we hiding under baskets or sitting as cities on a hill? I know where I spend most of my time—muffled light buried beneath a pile of self-centeredness and comfort-driven ideals.
It’s been a year and a half since I have walked these dirty Asian streets and searched for the beauty. As the sun made its ascent over the acacia tree in the corner of the soccer field, I refilled my cup with bold Filipino coffee, its steam rising in the yellow light, and I stepped outside the gates of the guesthouse. Camera in one hand, coffee in another, I walked. And I looked. Just as the faded and peeling street signs boldly proclaim the names of precious jewels, the sights and sounds of this same-but-different Asian city boldly proclaimed its own precious jewels. As I saw the flowers and the birds, as I heard the rhythmic swishing of the brooms of the women clearing the sidewalks, as I breathed in the humid morning air, I was reminded of how much Asia reminds me of home. Not my home in America, but the home in my heart—the place that is filled with all sorts of sin and garbage and bitter disappointments and yet bears glimpses of HIs goodness, holding out hope for the life to come.
Beauty in the chaos. I feel at home.