Image may contain: Lori Rhodes and Ray Rhodes, people smiling, people standing and night

Glancing at a few old photographs from our thirty-three years together, I am struck by how beautiful you were then and how much more beautiful you are now. You are still and forever, “O Most Beautiful Among Women.”

Beauty—a word often contemplated but difficult to define. I remember when we viewed the Mona Lisa in Paris and we instantly recognized that we were looking at something beautiful, that we were in the very presence of greatness. We glimpsed beauty—even stared it in the face, and we felt that we were experiencing something larger than life. We saw and then and now, words fail to describe her beauty.

Our vision of beauty is flawed because we see through darkened eyes: yet, God breaks through our darkness with sunbeams of mercy that allows us to look, to see, to feel, and to know something of the warmth of his beauty in the graces that he displays through our brokenness.

When Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 the Mona Lisa was in his studio. It was his life’s work and that for which he is most remembered. Reportedly, Leonardo’s last words were of remorse that he had “offended God and mankind” because he felt that work was not up to snuff. Whether he thought that or not, the statement is both stunning and true. It is stunning because Leonardo was a genius and his work is breathtaking. Yet, as any honest artist in any field of art should readily acknowledge (along with the rest of us) nothing that we produce can measure up. Yet, by grace, beauty springs from our hands.

But still we wonder and we doubt.

33 years ago, inside of a small church in a small town, I stood and waited. And then you appeared in your gown of white—there were no other women in the church nor in the world at that moment—just one and she was slowly walking towards me. I knew that I was in the presence of beauty.

Glancing backwards this morning via our photographs are beams of beauty breaking through our marriage, but there is also the darkness of fallenness. Thirty-three years: 12, 045 sunrises have risen on our marriage and 12,045 sunsets have fallen. Children born and others miscarried. Beach vacations and hospital visitations. Hands held and feelings hurt. Laughter loud, tears silently left on a pillow. Godliness and sin. But day-after-day the sun rose with healing in its wings. 

It’s often been messy. But this morning as I write in an idyllic Inn, nestled in a mountain valley, the sun is rising and soon you will also rise; Sleep in your eyes, stumbling for a minute, looking for coffee, and, then, you will make your nest, open your Bible, and seek our God. I will be in the presence of beauty. We are in the presence of Beauty Himself!

After a while we will walk for a couple of miles, talk about storefronts, children, and life together. We will pass planters made from broken ceramics.  You will say— “Let’s make one of those.” I will respond, “I will put that on my list.” We will both laugh because I am not that kind of artist.

Broken and colorful pieces fitted together make for a lovely flowerpot. Ahh, that’s our 33 years. Broken people, brought and held together by grace, make for a work of art. Yes, it’s been messy—but so beautiful.  

Happy Anniversary, “O Most Beautiful Among Women.”


Image may contain: Lori Rhodes and Ray Rhodes, people smiling, people sitting

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