Out of the ashes beauty will rise

out of ashes

Move on: 1. To leave one place and travel towards another.

“Jacob and his group left Bethel but before they came to Ephrath (Bethlehem), Rachel (Jacob’s wife) went into labour and began giving birth to her baby. She was having a lot of trouble with the labour and was in intense pain. After a hard delivery, the midwife exclaimed: “Don’t be afraid, Rachel. You have given birth to another son.” But Rachel was dying. With her last breath she named the boy Ben-Oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). But Jacob re-named him and called him Benjamin (which means “son of my right hand”). So Rachel died and was buried on the side of the road to Ephrath and Jacob set up a monument and placed a rock on Rachel’s grave to honor her. That rock is still there today. Then Jacob continued on his journey.” (Genesis 35:16-21)

There are so many sad stories in the Bible and this is one of them. Not just because Rachel (Jacob’s favourite wife) died in childbirth, but because there is no description of Jacob stopping and grieving and mourning his treasured wife. He simply “continued on his journey”. You could say he just moved on.

Last Sunday at church Ps Zoran Paunovich preached another brilliant message based on this passage of scripture and as I sat listening I was impacted by the parallel between this story and our journey of “moving on” from full-time ministry.

Sometimes you birth something but then you die and the thing that is born keeps growing but someone else raises it up.

Thirteen years ago we birthed a new church. We had a wonderful pregnancy – full of excitement and anticipation. The church grew and it was a time of hope and promise. We had so many expectations for the future. But ten years later, suffering from stress-induced burnout and depression my husband “died”. At times I felt as though I had died alongside him. For the next three years my season was a very difficult and painful one. At times it was unbearable because although part of me had “died”, new life came at the time of my death. New life that I handed over to someone else. New life that was re-named. New life that was being raised by someone else. And I sat and grieved and mourned and watched from the side of the road. I didn’t move on.

Just as Rachel named her baby “son of my sorrow”, I named this season in reflection of the experience I was walking through. Doubt. Disappointment. Despair. Discouragement. Perhaps I should have named it “season of broken dreams.” Or “season of death”. That’s certainly what it felt like at times.

Ephrath was the place where Rachel died and in the original Greek this is translated “ash heap”. As Ps Zoran explained this I immediately saw an image in my mind of a heaped up pile of ash on the side of the road. Ashes symbolize burned-out remains. They symbolize death. Nothingness. Loss of hope. But an “ash heap” is then translated to mean “a place of fruitfulness.” And that makes sense because I know that out of ashes comes new life. After a bushfire, the forest is renewed.

But just as Jacob didn’t want to be reminded of his wife’s death every time he looked at his son and called him “son of my sorrow” he changed his name. Just as the name of the church was changed when it was taken from our dying arms, God changed the name of my season too. He called it my “season of day to day trusting Him again”. Yeah, that’s a long name. So I’ll shorten it to “season of trust”.

The place of ash where everything died has become a place of beauty again and I have learned that good does come from bad. Hope does come from sorrow. Trust does come through faith. Strength can come after weakness.

The Bible says that all who are afflicted, burdened, brokenhearted and heavy will be given comfort. They will be given an “ornament of beauty instead of ashes” and a “garment of praise instead of sorrow”.

Therefore I am assured and I know that God (being a partner in my labor) does cause everything to work together to fit into His plan – a plan for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

I just had to make the choice to move on. Just as Jacob knew he couldn’t stop and sit in the ashes by the side of the road and mourn his wife’s death for the rest of his life, I had to keep going. Jacob had a family to think of. A newborn son to raise. The son of his right hand. I too had my family to think of. I couldn’t just sit down on the side of the road and not move again. Yes it’s okay to grieve (and I did a lot of that over those three years after we handed the church over). Yes, it’s okay to mourn. As long as I stand up and continue on my journey. As long as I just move on.

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote this beautiful song after the tragic and accidental death of his daughter. It is called “Beauty will rise”.

It was the day the world went wrong
I screamed til my voice was gone
And watched through the tears as everything
Came crashing down

Slowly panic turns to pain
As we awake to what remains
And sift through the ashes
That are left behind

But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams we have this hope

Out of these ashes beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of these ashes beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming in the morning
In the morning, beauty will rise

So take another breath for now
And let the tears come washing down
And if you can’t believe, I will believe for you

Cause I have seen the signs of spring
Just watch and see

Out of these ashes beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of these ashes beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming in the morning
In the morning

I can hear it in the distance
And it’s not too far away
It’s the music and the laughter
Of a wedding and a feast
I can almost feel the hand of God
Reaching for my face to wipe the tears away
You say it’s time to make everything new
Make it all new

This is our hope
This is a promise
This is our hope
This is a promise

It will take our breath away
To see the beauty that’s been made
Out of the ashes, out of the ashes

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8 thoughts on “Out of the ashes beauty will rise

  1. An awesome post. Very moving, very powerful. Love ISA. 61 and so enjoyed this scripture text and the song lyrics.

  2. Nicki, what a beautiful post. I know this sounds a bit morbid, but ashes have a whole new meaning now to me. My mother-in-law passed away and her ashes are now in my living room……. Life goes on and sometimes it seems surreal.
    Love and prayers, my friend!
    Beth A.

  3. Dear Nicki, you always speak to my heart in a way that takes my beath away. I so often feel like God uses you to speak just to me. The Bible tells us never to lose our confident hope. You help me to remember that fact. Love you my sweet sister and leader! Barbara P.

  4. Blessings in disguise, those ashes! They come as God ushers us in His new direction, toward fresh growth. I’m so blessed that His path allowed yours to cross mine! Karen

  5. Thank you for sharing your heart. In a season of blessing on every level, my pile of ashes along side the road seems to have “legs” to follow after me.

    By happenstance yesterday I noticed the title of a song on satellite radio as I walked by the television:”beauty will rise”. It’s morning now, and I want to find the source of those words.
    Recently I found strength to move on with a song by Jason Gray, Nothing is Wasted, that has those words~ beauty will rise.
    I now find myself hearing, seeing, feeling in quick succession ~ and your blog~ beauty will rise.
    My mothers suicide, basically in front of me, as a five year old is the pile of ashes that has been following me.
    Your courage to share is giving me courage to go back to the roadside and roll a stone across the entrance of her tomb.
    Ironically, I just realized today is the first year anniversary of my father’s death.
    Maybe I should bring two stones.

    Jason’s song ends with something like your quote of Romans “in the hands of our redeemer, nothing is wasted”.

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