dirt, chaos - and beauty

One of the definitive Indian experiences is to travel through the dirty and chaotic city of Agra, turn a corner, and be stunned so suddenly by the marble magnificence of the Taj Mahal.

This juxtaposition of rubbish and beauty captures so much of India.

You see it on any visit to any bazaar. Noise and filth and chaos may afflict every single sense - but then you see it: the brightness and beauty of onions and cucumbers, oranges and bananas, stacked with care and order.

I have been teaching at the South Asian Institute of Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS) - here in Bangalore - for the month of November. The beauty of the campus is breathtaking. Every morning I marvel as I walk. But take a few paces outside the campus and the trash piles up everywhere. That juxtaposition - yet again.

I see it every morning as I read my Times of India. The front page - every single day - has been obsessed with corruption among the powerful. More rubbish. Then on page 2 they have run a month-long series entitled 'Bangalore Patrol' with the results of a study into 'civic services' in the city: measuring mobility, water, sanitation, public anemities, environment, and crime. It is not a pretty sight. Lots of rubbish going down (and lying around). At times I sense embarassment and shame with the reporters. But then turn to the back pages of the paper and the collection of photos and stories to do with beauty on a daily basis defies belief. Never have I been in a society so fascinated by beauty and the beautiful. That juxtaposition - yet again.

None of this should be too surprising. Any reader of the New Testament and student of human nature knows that the juxtaposition of rubbish and beauty fills its pages while capturing so much of who we are in whatever country we find ourselves. The wonder of the gospel is that God created us and our world as things of beauty - but sin and evil have rubbished this. And now, through the gospel, our own rubbish can be transformed and we can participate with God in his mission in the world to see that rubbish restored as well.

What a life! Here's to beauty for ashes...

I look forward to returning to Agra next month and revelling in the gospel once again - and renewing my commitment to participating in the restoration of beauty in the world wherever that may be.

nice chatting



Heather said…
Praise God!

This year I have become more and more aware of the brokenness of the world. I long for the New Heavens and the New Earth. But I am also amazed by the 'first fruits of the Kingdom' - those little flashes of beauty from the brokenness all around. And one day it will all be transformed. Come, Lord Jesus!
Mark Maffey said…
It is not only the New Testament where we find this juxtaposition. In Isaiah in the midst of the Exile in Babylon, Isaiah predicts one who would prepare the way, make the rough ways smooth,Isa 55 they will go out with Joy in contrast, to their mourning in Psalm 137 as they go into exile. And In Isaiah 61, that they will have the garment of praise for the Spirit of heaviness, the oil of joy for mourning, cf Luke 4 vs 18-19. Luke's upside down gospel does the point the way to turning around the rich become poor,blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth..etc. I am thankful that there are many like you Paul who are enriching the lives of many. You are in my prayers

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