The beauty around us
The ugliness when we look up close.
Living here in Guatemala, we often post pictures of the beauty around us. We live in a valley surrounded by volcano’s. Our temperature is almost always 70-75 degrees. We live an hour from the Pacific ocean with it’s palm trees, black sand, and blue water. There are ruins of old Spanish churches all around us. A coffee plantation is growing up out of the side of the “hill” that rises up right behind our house. Many of the people around us dress in beautiful hand embroidered, colorful clothes. Guatemala really is a beautiful place to live. The thing is, when you look closer, there is a lot of ugliness. Most of the pictures we post are taken of something beautiful in the distance, while there is something really ugly right in front of us. Sometimes it is the other way around, taken up close with something really ugly behind what we are photographing. There is always ugliness just around the corner. One day this week, I went on a bike ride around our little town of Jocotenango. I went with the purpose of seeing the ugliness of where we live. I didn’t have to go far. There is trash everywhere. There are skinny sick dogs everywhere. There is crime everywhere. There are always drunk men staggering down the street or passed out on the sidewalk. The pictures that I included with this blog were all taken within just a few blocks of where we live. They are just pictures of things I usually point my camera over or around.
Here’s my point. The pictures we take and post on Facebook and in our blog often show people what we want Guatemala to be, but it’s not. We want to see the beauty but we are called to see the ugliness. When I wanted to take these pictures, I actually had to make myself look to see the trash. It is so common that it just seems normal now. I would ride past something and notice it, but not really notice it. Then I would stop and back up and ask myself how I could possibly have not noticed what I just saw. Living here in Guatemala, our job is to see the ugliness and do something about it. I’m not talking about the trash in the streets and the rivers anymore. The ugliness we are here to see and do something about is ignorance of the true Gospel. It’s not knowing, not understanding, not having a true relationship with the God who created us. The symptoms are alcoholism (another friend died in March), drug abuse, pride, selfishness…trash. These all grow out of the ugliness of not KNOWING God. That’s the real ugliness that we often overlook.
I guess there is a personal application here as well. The image that we project to those around us is often the person we want to be, not the person we really are. Often we view the church we are a part of as we want it to be, not as it really is. We see our children as little angels when they really aren’t. We see the people around us as we want them to be, when really, they are in pain and need and want help. When we overlook and hide the ugliness and trash in our lives, in our organizations, in those around us, it never gets fixed. Sometimes, like we get used to the trash in the river, we get used to the ugliness around us. We go right past it in our daily lives without noticing it. We have to get in close. We are called to get in close. The problem with getting in close, is that when we see ugliness and we decide to do something about it, it’s going to cost us. You can’t pull the trash out of the river without getting wet. It might cost time, or money, or emotional capital. The cool thing about it all though, is that no matter how great the cost, the benefit will be even greater.
Guatemala will never be perfect, there will always be some ugliness right outside of the picture frame. It is just like there will always be some kind of trash in our lives, our families, our organizations, and the people around us. The thing is, though, the more the light of the truth of the Gospel shines on all of it, the better everything will be. That’s why we are here.