How to be beautiful (Guest post by Jennifer Dougan)

A song on Sunday sent me into snake ponderings.

The worship song surged around me in the church pew and I lifted my writhing three year old onto my hip. Unaccustomed to being with us in the service, he was a whirl of energy and motion. Hanging off the chair with one hand and shoulder draped off the edge, he had peered at the floor. Spinning over he cuddled onto his sister’s lap, squeezing her arms for a hug. A grey sandaled shoe jabbed into my side, and I quickly readjusted my shirt.

It wasn’t his writhings that turned my mind to snakes, though. The worship song that we stood and sang back to God said wonderingly,

“You make beautiful things, beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things, beautiful things out of us.”

“You make me new, you are making me new.
You make me new, you are making us new.”

My oldest son has an eighteen inch garter snake that he found and tamed. Now the snake often coils comfortably up his arm as he walks the house, or hangs harmlessly around my seventeen year old’s neck as he corrects his math problems.

“Did you know,” my dad said, “that a snake is nearly blind right before it sheds its skin? With eyes that are clouded and dull, it is fearful and aggressive. Feeling vulnerable, it will often strike at the hand bringing it food too.”

My son built a reptile habitat in a glass aquarium, with cedar wood chips and an overturned log.

In order to rid itself of the old skin that is constraining it and hindering it, the snake has to be intentional. It can’t hole up in a safe dark corner, with dull, clouded eyes. Rather the snake has to purposely lean into the hard places between the log and the glass window, and push through the rough patches, intentionally poking into and through dark places. It’s the pressure and the pulling that tug off the dead to reveal beauty below.

We’re standing in the pews and singing and I’m holding my three-year-old in my arms and he’s writhing, and I picture my oldest’s newly-gleaming snake. Pearlescent emerald and gleaming amber striped down the snake’s back, leaving behind a faded, transparent wraith in the aquarium.

I sang “You make me new, you are making me new. You make things new…..

“You make beautiful things, ….

And I realize it’s me that God has been pressing through the tight places, poking into the dark corners, and leaning me into the rough patches to tear off the old, revealing beauty below.

How do we be beautiful? We lean into the rough places. We dare to walk with our Creator through the dark corners, through the tight spaces that’ll pull off the old and make all things new.

You make beautiful things out of the dust
you make beautiful things out of us

(thank you, Jennifer, for this stirring post. please visit Jennifer here at her lovely website)


5 thoughts on “How to be beautiful (Guest post by Jennifer Dougan)

  1. Beautiful analogy of life…. snake shedding skin, the song and the present happenings. Wow, I love your style, Jen.

    Thank you for sharing. Beauty emerges from darkness to light, from tight places into the comfortable…. etc…. even from the cocoon into the butterfly of beauty out of metamorphosis.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Jennifer. So much to think about with this post. I think right now I am most like a blind snake, likely to strike at the One who even feeds it.

    But He keeps feeding.

    And I am brought face to face with my rough places through your words. Don’t want to fight the squeeze, as you said, it’s through this that the beauty is able to surface. Beauty of the new.

    A great post. Very timely for me.

  3. Jennifer, this was SO encouraging! Who knew, you could get such a touching analogy from a slithering snake! 🙂 Thank you sister. ~ Blessings, Amy

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