Beauty / brokenness

Beauty / brokenness

The contrasts on show while walking in the local park help Anna and Chris Hembury reflect on how God sees us.

Photo: Anna and Chris’s local park in Hull

Mission partners Anna and Chris Hembury have been working in Hull for more than two decades. Here they reflect on the beauty and brokenness in their neighbourhood and all our lives…

Our local park is a gift and a lifeline, a little patch of green space in an area full of concrete backyards.

Spring made the park sing praise, bringing out the glory of trees, grasses, blossom and wildflowers. An avenue of horse chestnuts with their flowering candles make a spectacular cathedral nave.

Families picnic, dogs frolic, runners run, skaters do tricks, immigrant menfolk self-organise basketball and football matches and children’s laughter carries from the playground.

It’s not hard to give thanks in the midst of all this beauty.

Our local park is dirty and unsafe, a little hive of criminal activity.

A walk there means running the gauntlet of dog (and sometimes human) mess, broken glass, condoms and syringes. The skate park is fertile territory for recruiting young people to run county lines (trafficking drugs from one area to another).

The underpass provides shelter for cooking up heroin as well as for rough sleepers with nowhere else to lay their head. All manner of base activity happens in dark corners.

It’s hard not to curse in the midst of all this brokenness.

Both descriptions are true, both our daily experience, very often at the same time.

Beauty and brokenness seem to go starkly hand in hand everywhere here, not only in the park. Neither cancels the other out.

Maybe that is God’s view of all of us, not seeing only glory or guilt in monochromatic light, but all of everything in full spectrum colour and with no less love.

Every night we walk with the dog around the park, recounting the blessings from our day in the midst of the beauty and the brokenness.

Of course we grumble too, especially about dog mess and broken glass – but with no less love for the people and the place.

We hold onto the words from Jeremiah 29:7:

“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”.

Thank God for our neighbourhood in all its beauty and brokenness, and pray for its transformation.

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