Beauty in Place of Soil

Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3

One evening, I noticed neat rows of soil in a vacant lot near my home. Each row contained small green leaves with tiny buds peeking out. The next morning, I stopped in my tracks when I saw a patch of beautiful red tulips sprouting in the lot.

The previous fall, a group had planted one hundred thousand bulbs in empty lots throughout the South Side of Chicago. They chose red to symbolize how redlining (lending discrimination by banks) had impacted neighborhoods where primarily minorities lived. The tulips symbolized the houses that could have been in those lots.

God’s people have endured many challenges—from being exiled from their homelands to discrimination like redlining. Yet, we can still find hope. Isaiah reminds Israel during a time of exile that God would not leave them. He’d give them a “crown of beauty” in place of ashes. Even the poor would receive “good news” (61:1). God promised to exchange despairing spirits with a “garment of praise.” All of these images evoke His splendor and would bring joy to the people, who would now be “oaks of righteousness” instead of dejected exiles (v. 3).

Those tulips also show that God can create splendor from dirt and discrimination. I look forward to seeing the tulips each spring, and more importantly renewed hope in my neighborhood and other communities.

By: Katara Patton

Reflect & Pray

Where in your community have you seen beauty replace despair? How can you help create beauty in places of despair?

Thank You, God, for the beauty You allow me to see even when my circumstances seem dire.