Ever make a paper snowflake? Fold a sheet of paper twice, cut an arc to turn it into a circle, and then keep cutting. Cut circles, triangles, rectangles, whatever. Go crazy. When you're all done, unfold it and presto, a paper snowflake.
Much like real snowflakes, no two paper snowflakes are alike. Some people like more circles in their snowflakes. Others prefer triangles. I've even seen hearts in some.
Back in elementary school, we made paper snowflakes every year. It was the only art project that I ever looked forward to doing, mostly because it was the only art project I knew I could do well. I could make a mean paper snowflake.
And as it turns out, I still can.
Sitting at work the other day. Weather: nasty. Mood: sour. Why: lots of reasons, number one being that I realized I was about to be one year away from my twentieth high school reunion.
It's fascinating just how much high school still means to me. I hated it for the most part. Those four years were filled with disappointments and broken hearts and general confusion. I couldn't wait to graduate, to leave that part of my life behind and embrace the next. Because, you see, everything I wasn't back then would be everything I'd be in the future. I might not know the quadratic equation or the difference between a proton and an electron, but I knew where I was going in life. I had it all planned out. I was going places.
Like most plans, though, mine didn't turn out exactly like I thought they would. I did get out of high school and go places. I went five miles down the road to live and fifteen miles up the road to work.
So I sat at work and pouted. Got a piece of paper from the printer on the desk, folded it up, grabbed some scissors, and started cutting.
Why is it, I thought, that I'm so concerned about what people I hadn't seen in twenty years and who I never really cared for anyway think of me? That was stupid. But maybe it wasn't that at all. Maybe a twenty-year reunion is the sort of thing that makes you pause and look back over your life. Maybe it's a signpost on the road of your life: YOU ARE HERE. And when you know you are HERE, you want to look back to see where you've been and how you've gotten to this point.
Though I was thankful for my life, thankful for my family and my faith and the God Who takes care of both, there has been a lot of nastiness along the way. Disappointments and failures galore. Too many regrets. My life was not nearly as clean as the sheet of paper in my hand. There were holes. Deep, jagged holes in my life. Too many holes.
Not that I was any different than any other person I had graduated with. I knew they, too, had holes by now. Such a thing is inevitable, part of the toll that must be paid for living in a fallen world. We all screw up. We all do things we're not supposed to be doing. And we all seem to end up somewhere else than where we thought we would.
Holes. We all hate holes.
My cutting done, I scoop the scraps of paper into the garbage and slowly open my snowflake. Though it's been years since I last made one, I noticed that my technique hadn't gone rusty. If anything, it had improved. Mrs. Houff, my elementary school art teacher, would be pleased.
And I noticed something else. This was no longer just another sheet of paper from the printer. It had been transformed. It was now unique, a one of a kind work of art.
It was beautiful. Because of the holes I had cut into it.
Maybe, just maybe, all of the pain and disappointments and regrets we collect over the years serve a purpose after all. Maybe the God that can part seas and raise the dead can also use our ugly holes and make something beautiful.
Works of art. That's us.