Unfading Beauty: How Delight in Earthly Beauty Points Us to God
“Unfading beauty.” I type those words into the search bar, and then “beauty in the Bible.” Finally, “how many times is God called beautiful in the Bible” which no one seems to have counted. Defining beauty can feel a bit evasive, like chasing a mirage. Each result is more disappointing than the last. The blunder doesn’t reside in the fact that what is written there is untrue, but that it is incomplete like looking at only one side of a sculpture in a museum. The disappointment lies in what is missing.
Where does this idea of beauty come from? Why aren’t we beginning with God Himself?
Before we push forward into the ways in which we should live, the ways in which we should image imperishable beauty, do we not begin with its origin? God is called beautiful several times in scripture. It’s a beauty that makes the Psalmist long to be in His presence (27:4). It’s a beauty that shines through all His character like shafts of light through lace curtains (Ps.96.9). It is perfect beauty (Ps. 50:2).
What images come to mind when you think of beauty? Close your eyes and consider for a moment what you believe to be beautiful. Perhaps, you see beauty in cotton candy skies at sunset, your baby’s eyelashes fluttering until they rest against pink cheeks, the curve of your love’s muscles as they flex to embrace you, lowland views from mountaintops, the subtle orchestra of wind through branches, bird song, and tumbling water, the scent of earth after a spring rain.
What do all of these have in common? Delight. The observer takes delight in the delightful. Delight is that rise in your chest, that tear of joy in the corner of your eye, that deep sigh. We were made for delight. These small glimpses of delight point to our Maker.
There is a problem, of course. We people of the Delightful One have taken what is good, like we always do, and twisted it. God creates good things, like beauty, and we distort them. The distortion can look like chasing lesser forms of delight, momentary happiness, believing it will satisfy. The distortion can look like worshiping the very thing that is meant to draw us to the perfectly Beautiful One, instead of its Creator. We do not realize that the gift of earthly beauty is delight refracted. It is meant to bend us toward our Maker until we bend our bodies in worship to Him.
We are guilty of these distortions ourselves. They try to make a home in us most when suffering breaks our own hearts or the hearts around us. We are tempted to despair, discouragement, bitterness, and anxiety. So, we run to a quick fix like an addict –-a good storyline in a book or on Netflix, the sweetness of a chocolate croissant with the contrast of the tangy bitterness of a strong cup of coffee, or the Kelly-green blouse on the sales rack. It’s not that these aren’t good gifts to enjoy. It’s that we are forgetting who these gifts are from our beloved Maker who became a human maker, a carpenter. We are forgetting that these gifts are limited delight. Limitless delight can only be found in Him. We are running to delight that looks like striving instead of delight that looks like rest. We are bushwhacking our way to imaginations that forget the origin of beauty, God Himself.
We are running to delight that looks like striving instead of delight that looks like rest.
The solution is not to ignore beauty or, as we may be tempted to do, believe that beauty is a frivolous pursuit when you have extra time. I am learning that marinating in beauty isn’t a luxury. It is God-imaging. The God of all creation made beautiful things. The solution is regular rhythms of observation of earthly delight redirected to God as we respond in worship. Worship can look like many things including song, prayer, or making. When we are making, we are reflecting our Maker. This is an act of worship.
In my life, this process often begins with a walk in creation. It is the very thing that helps my mind be still and know that He is God. Hiking in nature is my own march around Jericho. However, a city is not being defeated by God’s power. Instead, my thought life, whose walls have obstructed remembering and delighting in God, is being reconstructed. With each step, I remember the origin of that delight through His character, attributes, and promises.
- I see things like God’s creative power in nature.
- I see that He holds creation together; I remember, He can sustain me.
- I see the intricacies of leaf, flower, and stem; I know He is in the details of my life.
- I see trunks hundreds of years old and remember He is not limited by time but transcends it.
In this, I remember my life, my story is but a blip in His capable hands. Each bud, scampering of a fox, or bird song becomes a remembrance of Him until my mind is sound instead swirling with lies. My next inclination is gratitude and worship which pours out of me. My worship may look like a quiet thank you, a song belted out in praise, a poem of His goodness in my journal, or a painting emphasizing His works. I don’t have to be good at any of it because this is how I talk with God. I keep pursuing it because it reminds me of Him and His Kingdom come. I need reminding in this world of heartache and distortions because I too easily forget. My daily life becomes in remembrance of Him as I worship the great I AM.
How will delight in beauty turn your heart toward God’s beauty?
- Will you put that record on, the one that you’ve memorized every note, that makes your chest rise as you close your eyes and remember your Father knows you so well that He’s memorized every bit of you?
- Will you hear the pitter-pat of your toddler’s scampering feet running toward you for a hug, and smile knowing that you can run into the arms of Jesus without reservations?
- Will you pause in front of the painting that shows the ugliness of humanity through dark moody color and remember our Savior who died for the sin of mankind?
- Will you run your fingers through your puppy’s soft, fluffy coat and remember the gentleness of Jesus?
- Will you savor the sweetness of your kid’s first batch of homemade cookies and then savor the sweet words of encouragement as the Holy Spirit spoke through a friend to give you the very words you needed?
- Will the scent of your lilac bush through your open window remind you that you are the aroma of Christ?
- Will you then capture each of these moments of delight that calls to mind the beauty of God and being His child and respond in worship that glorifies Him?
- Will you respond with a song of praise or by plucking out the melody of your own song? Will you make a meal with care for those you love?
- Will you sketch, paint, or mold?
- Will you write a prayer, poem, note of encouragement, or story?
May your delight in the good gift of beauty drive you to delight in the truly Beautiful one. May worship rise up in your soul.
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