“The Crystalline Center”

There is so much of interest at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. — dinosaur bones, a blue whale, a bug zoo.  The most visited exhibit, however, is on the second floor–it is the gemstone exhibit.  The Hope diamond is there, and the jewels of Josephine Beauhernais.  One has to wait in line most days to get a glimpse of the Hope diamond, rotating in its case.  The jewelry exhibited along the walls similarly generates a crowd.  If you go beyond this room — if  you force your way past the jewelry exhibit you find yourself in a long, narrow room — generally empty of people, but filled with wonders.

In this room gemstones are displayed in their natural settings, and their various forms.  Quartz pieces are there in every imaginable color and geometric configuration: emerald skyscrapers, stacked sapphire blocks, beveled garnet shafts, crafted by God’s hand.  Most amazing of all are the stones from which these stunning pieces emerge.  Outwardly they are warty, gray-green lumps.  But when they are cut open, they reveal a veritable pirate’s chest of treasure.

I’ve always thought about Jeremiah’s moving lamentation in that way.  We are used to linear stories with happy (or at least resolved) endings.  Jeremiah, writing a dirge (a form unfamiliar to most of us), and writing with an eastern, elliptical sensibility, seems to begin in despair and end with it.  But that isn’t what he has done at all.  He has created a circle with a center, a sphere with a core, a song with a heart inside.  Like those stones that seem so gray, rough and ugly, Lamentations has a crystalline and beautiful center.  At the precise middle of the book, we read these words:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases…

I find this model helpful.  Life is rarely linear, rarely resolved in twenty-two to forty-six minutes, like most television programs.  Challenges and heartaches aren’t neatly packaged up each week, with a cliff-hanger now and then.  Death, divorce, disappointment, poverty, illness, loneliness, failure are persistent, complicated, rough and sometimes ugly.  It is easy to believe there is no light (and, thus, no God) at the end of the tunnel.  But for the believer, at the core of even the most acute pain, there is the steadfast love of God, and His mercies renewed every morning — the eye of every storm, and the gemstone inside every rock, the beating heart of all life…


…Transforming all life.

If you pick up a warty, gray-green rock, and know that inside it is a blazing, brilliant cascade of crumbling quartz obelisks, then you know you are not holding a warty, gray-green rock at all; but a treasure.

This is the steadfast love  of the Lord.  It transforms  our failure into inner-strength

— into strength for others.  And so we concur with Jeremiah…it is indeed good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord (Lamentations 3.26).

 Barry Bryson, Manassas, VA


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