In her poem What to do with bits of string, poet Luci Shaw writes, “Women in Africa roll old magazines into beads, varnishing them for sale in other worlds, jewels from junk.” When I read those words, I recalled the roadside stand in an African country where a young girl sat selling ornaments made by her mother and aunt. Earrings, shiny red metal cut into small circles with the Coca ColaTM logo clearly visible. Bracelets made from newsprint rolled tightly into cylinders only a quarter inch in diameter. Brooches crafted from fallen bits of woods, rubbed shiny with a safety pin glued to the back.
I wear bits of jewelry like these and love to tell stories of their creation when people offer their compliments. Some women have even asked how they can learn to make such baubles to earn extra spending money although many grow silent and somewhat pensive when I explain that the mere pennies I paid will buy rice for a family’s supper that evening.
Too often we see ourselves only as ordinary junk. Perhaps we have not grown up with affirmation or, much worse, we have been abused and heard shouts that we are nothing but junk. We compare ourselves to those who possess more, who have attained more, who appear more beautiful or handsome. We see ourselves as mere bottle caps, bit of discarded wood or newsprint.
Then God breaks in with the message He declared at creation: “This is VERY good!” And as He works in our lives to re-create us after sin’s damaging work, He says: “I know what I’m doing…You are altogether beautiful…I have plans to take care of you…” God takes the raw material of our lives, polishes us, shapes us not into mere baubles, but into valuable gems exhibiting His own beauty to tell the world we are jewels, not junk.
…I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
Jeremiah 29:11 and Song of Solomon 4:7 (The Message)