Robbing Beauty

A wild and unpredictable moment during the "Music by Prudence" Oscar acceptance speech last Sunday night.


Biased and rigged as it is, I typically try to check out a little bit of the Academy Awards each year, or, at the very least, read the results the next day in the news.  This past Sunday night I happened to tune in at precisely the right moment – the announcement for the winner of the “Best Documentary Short” award.  The winning short was “Music by Prudence”, the tale of a severely handicapped young woman from Zimbabwe named Prudence Mabhena, who apparently has one of the more hauntingly beautiful voices you’ve ever heard. 

Anyways, the movies producer (or one of them, as we’d soon find out), Roger Ross Williams, literally ran to the stage when the film was announced as winner.  I thought to myself, “Man, I’ve never seen anyone sprint to receive an award before.”  Moments later, an older woman bumrushed the stage and bullied Williams away from the microphone.  She rambled somewhat incoherently about how “anything is possible” until the orchestra played the two off the stage.  I couldn’t believe it.  It was a human tact train wreck on national television during the Oscars and I’d seen it live (not to mention that I watched it twice more on my DVR).  

Check it out for yourself – 

Needing to know the explanation, I looked up the information the next day online as the story had unfolded. It turns out the seemingly crazy white woman (Elinor Burkett) was also one of the producers to the movie.  She’d left production about a year ago (over the artistic direction of the film) and was in the process of suing the male director/producer, Williams, over the rights to the movie.  The two were entangled in such hostility that Williams, who initially looked like the victim here, ran to the stage to get his speech in while he had his elderly mother try to trip Burkett with her cane as she was making her way up to the stage. 

It was wild, DVR-worthy TV.  

Not knowing the entire background of the debate between the producers, I have no desire to choose sides.  I wasn’t under the impression that either of them carried themselves in a particularly upstanding fashion this evening.  But that’s their issue.  The one I felt saddened for, however, was the star of the film, Prudence.  Here she sat in the audience, her shining moment, star of a Hollywood award-winning movie, dolled up like no way she could have ever imagined……….and the cameras (and thus the moment) is stolen from her by two producers fighting over their spot in the limelight.  What a shame.  The beautiful smile on the face of the film’s star changed to a look of confusion.  The beauty of the moment had been robbed. 

Unfortunately, life is like that sometimes.  Beautiful moments, beautiful things, beautiful relationships are robbed of their beauty by greed or selfishness or pride.  Maybe there’s some moments or aspects of your life that should have been better than what they were, but the beauty was robbed by sin or its natural products.  I think we’ve all had these moments: A family vacation is ruined by someone getting sick.   A friendship is destroyed by someone betraying confidence.  A marriage exists no longer because of a brief moment of exhilaration or years of self-centeredness.  What a shame. 

The beauty of the marriage relationship is one that I’d like to pursue a little further, except not the one between man and woman, but the analogous one between Christ and his church (as explained in Ephesians 5).  Numerous pictures in Scripture are given to describe the relationship between God and his people, Christ and his church.  Prophetic literature of the Old Testament pictures it this way.  The entire book of Song of Songs illustrates the intimate love between God and his people.  And that’s the way it’s pictured in the End Times as well – Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).  How much more beautiful of a picture can you get – wedding pictures between the Church and Christ.  

Sometimes in this sinful world, even in Christ’s church, that beauty can get robbed though.  Every time a visitor is unwelcomed into our church, a spill is made on that beautiful wedding dress.  Every time gossip or slander coming from brothers and sisters in Christ is told, another spill.  Every time unconstructive complaints are spoken, another spill.  Every time someone believes that act of service or kindness or love is someone else’s job, another spill.  Every time apathy towards God’s Word or God’s worship is expressed, another spill.  Every time our meetings become more about church politics and budgets at the expense of being about Christ’s deliverance and our liberation, another spill.  After awhile that beautiful dress could become barely recognizable as a wedding gown.  Even the unbelieving world can pick up on that hypocrisy from Christians.  And when ministry gets more about finances and agendas than winning or nurturing souls, well, it’s saddened and depressed times like this that I wonder if I got into the right line of work.  And please by no means think I’m excluding myself from this.  If our church doesn’t seem like a beautiful bride 100% of the time, it’s our own personal make-up we should probably check first in the mirror.  The truth is, in our lives in general, we all have probably lost more sleep worrying about finances and projects more than care of souls.  What a shame.  Father, forgive us. 

It’s at this point that we’re wise to dry our eyes over our occasionally ugly dress and look again to our groom — Jesus himself.  He said “I do” not because we were lovely, but because he was loving.  And he said “I do” not to the church building or institution, but to us personally – flaws and all that he was willing to pay for and love us despite.  And so we’re reminded that a Christian Church is not a collection of perfect people, but a collection of people who realize they’re not perfect, but also realize they have a perfect Savior in Jesus who wiped the running mascara from our sobbing eyes and the wine spill from our stained dress.  More bluntly – he forgives our sins and we can rejoice.  Satan would love to rob beauty from Christ’s church by cultivating ugliness and sin.  But Christ forgives us and we forgive one another.  We continuously work to build one another up in the body of Christ.  And we toast to the health of our eternal union.

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