“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. –Romans 8:28

There is a Creative Writing Lounge on my college campus that fellow writers and I spend a lot of time in. There are couches to lay on, bookshelves filled with literary magazines and books, a gigantic chalkboard covered in quotes and doodles that takes up about half of one of the walls, and a fish tank with one red and blue beta. I love being in there for community and ideas, but on this day I was not getting any comfort from that place.

I was feeling overwhelmed and distraught.

I love that I get to be involved in so many things at Malone University: theatre productions, the Writers Guild, music opportunities. However, when you add sixteen to eighteen credit hours’ worth of homework to those activities, life gets pretty stressful.

I threw my bag down in the lounge and started to walk around the Johnson Center—the biggest building on campus, the JC holds the English, Art, Music, and Theology departments. I was making my way around the second floor when I stopped at the Malone Art Gallery. Every single month, Malone lets a student artist display their work. Every time I pass the walls are decorated with photographs or paintings and pedestals are lit up with pieces of pottery and sculptures.

That day I noticed the name of whose work was on display. It was a collection of nature photographs by a senior art student that I worked with on RSVP, a collaboration of artists and writers on campus. Writers give a piece of writing to an artist and they create a work of art in response. Writers are then given an art work and they write from that inspiration. It is a powerful example of when artists of any kind seek community and support each other.

So I decided to take a small look around the gallery. There were photographs of trees and stills of flowers; hills and rivers caught in perfect moments.

The Artist Statement was very clear:

I was drawn to this dark photo of trees with faint light filtering through the branches. And as I sat in silence I asked God to speak with me, through my uneasiness and stress, because I was trying to listen. I pulled back to that photo and I remembered this story I heard by the writer and speaker Sheila Walsh.

There once was a famous painting of Mary and baby Jesus hanging in one of the most prestigious art galleries. It was ancient, found in the rubble of some crumbled forgotten city. An art critic, however, could not understand why this painting was so popular. The blurry-faced Mary was holding Jesus awkwardly away from her, the golden trees were drawn at weird angles. The critic asked himself many times why the artist chose to disfigure these biblical figures in this way.

And then he thought maybe the painting was never meant to hang in an art gallery. So this critic got down on his knees and looked up. The whole painting changed before his eyes. Mary was raising Jesus to the heavens; her face was shining. The trees were bowing down to their Creator.

Some things are meant to be viewed in worship.

First, I checked out in the hallway for people. Then I walked up to stand before this photograph of warped and bended and broken trees. Then I get down on my knees in the Malone Art Gallery and looked up. Those trees aren’t twisted. Those trees make the shape of cross, right where the light shines through.

When we are stressed, when someone hurts us, when things are added to our to-do list more than things are checked off, it’s hard to see the goodness in those circumstances. It’s hard to look past our pain, our loneliness, or even our own brokenness. But we never made to see the world through those small glasses.

We are meant to to look at our lives through faith, through love, and through Jesus Christ. There we will find comfort and understanding. There we will find peace in the unknown and realize that no matter what happens, we can still be joyful in our lives and circumstances.

Casting Crowns, a Christian band sings in their song “Already There,” these lyrics:

“From where You’re standing, Lord, You see a grand design that You imagined when You breathed me into life and all the chaos comes together in Your hands like a masterpiece.”

In John 11, Jesus is convincing the sisters of Lazarus to open up their brother’s tomb. Verse 40, “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.'” Reluctantly, the disciples pull away away the stone. Then one of the most important miracles happen in the Bible: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

No matter how much we want to, we will never be able to see the big picture of our lives. But God can. He knows our future; He knows what’s best for us. We have to trust Him that these circumstances and trials will ultimately bring us closer in our walk with Jesus, forming us into who we are meant to be in God’s will.

About the Author: 

Ellie Zumbach is currently a student at Malone University studying Creative Writing and Theatre. From a very young age, she has loved stories and their power to encourage, teach, and inspire. She is a proud member of a drama ministry team known as the Chancel Players and a co-director of the Writers Guild on campus.  Welcome Ellie as she shares her words with “Memoirs of a Virtuous Woman” readers as an intern for Fall 2017.

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