It’s compelling. It’s a passionate pursuit that drives us towards just about anything: from perfectly sculpted muscles, to perfectly sculpted eyebrows.
It's searching for the shade of grey with just enough blue for the walls in your home. It's the sense of awe as you stand before the expansive vista. It’s the finishing brush stroke to the masterpiece. It’s the right headphones to hear the fullness of the music.
It's stumbling upon an empty, quiet cove while walking on the beach and discovering the stark beauty of giant driftwood bleached by the salty waters. It's finding yourself unable to count the different shades of blue in the ocean and the sky (see photo).
It’s the full feeling in your chest when you benefit from people performing at professional levels in music, sport, theatre, sculpture, painting, poetry.
Our pursuit of physical beauty is evident from Fashion Week to Fifth Avenue to Main Street to your street. The gym is packed with women and men running nowhere. Drug stores have a “health and beauty aids” aisle. Lotions, potions, cosmetics, colognes. Most people work hard to look like they aren’t trying hard. We gladly pay a price for beauty, to see it, to experience it, to be it.
Wait! This is important. Especially at this stage in the school year when you’re trying to catch your breath between kick-off picnics, opening luaus, welcome back celebrations, student leader planning retreats and staff preparation training. In this season of chaotic, though strategic, busyness our need for beauty is no less significant. Perhaps our need for beauty is even greater.
Because our need for Jesus remains.
Beauty is an invitation to enjoy, to be drawn in, to appreciate, to marvel. Beauty in all of its forms points us back to our Creator. The problem starts when we turn beauty into an ultimate thing, a thing to be worshipped, rather than worshipping the One who created beauty. When we look to beauty (the right size jeans, the latest shoe, the cool thrift store find, the fluffy pillow at the elite store, the well-timed punchline, the image that draws us into another space) to rescue us we "Messiah-fy" what was intended to point us to our Messiah.
Perhaps this busy season is a good time to talk with your team and leaders about the role of beauty in your ministry. I'm not talking about self esteem, but rather, how is your movement beautiful? In what ways do you invite people to marvel, to be in awe, to experience that full feeling in their chest when they see, taste, feel, experience something, Someone wonderful?
When was the last time you were immersed in beauty?
Which of your senses experienced it first?
What was compelling about it?
How did beauty bring healing?
What did you experience about Jesus?
In what ways is your ministry beautiful?
How can you create moments/experiences of beauty in the rhythm of your life? of your ministry?
Perhaps you could ask your team a few of these questions regarding the Psalms and quotes from theologians listed below:
What stands out to you in each quote?
How do you connect with the statements?
What other scriptures come to mind?
What aspects of God seem beautiful to you, now?
What is so beautiful that it makes your soul feel full?
What will it take to continually lift your eyes from the urgent to behold our beautiful Savior?
Beauty is God’s goodness made manifest to the senses.
Everything of value culturally, given the loss of moral knowledge, is sucked into this economic vacuum where it's chewed up and spewed out until nothing of value remains. So people wind up eating and drinking and doing all the things human beings do, but in lives stripped of the glory that is a manifestation of grace.
Beauty is, above all, a manifestation of grace, of abundance and generosity. It's the reason why God placed flowers on the earth: to have little voices calling to us constantly about grace. You walk in the field, and here's a flower. Jesus valued the "lilies of the field."
CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory
We do not want merely to see beauty... we want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves....
The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
"The observer of beauty always receives a passion to share the beauty with others.”
“What you need to drive out an old passion, is a new passion, a greater passion. What you need is an over-mastering positive passion. [...] Just as Rachel was Jacob's over-mastering passion, the passion of his life, Jesus is our "Rachel". To the degree, that you see Jesus on the cross, losing absolutely everything for you, He will become a beauty to you, He will become so beautiful in your eyes that you'll be able to change these things that control you now, they'll loose their power.
Do you know how to work on your heart like that? It's only by rejoicing in and resting in what Jesus Christ has done for you. Then you can replace your idols. And if you really want to change and want to pound the Gospel more deeply into your heart - Jesus Christ must become your over-mastering positive passion.” - Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything
I do believe that deeply rooted in every human heart is a longing for beauty. Why do we go to the Grand Canyon, the Boundary Waters, art exhibits, gardens? Why do we plant trees and flower beds? Why do we paint our inside walls? Why is it man and not the monkeys who decorated cave walls with pictures? Why is it that in every tribe of humans ever known there has always been some form of art and craftsmanship that goes beyond mere utility? Is it not because we long to behold and be a part of beauty? We crave to be moved by some rare glimpse of greatness. We yearn for a vision of glory.
There is in the human heart an unquenchable longing for beauty. And I am persuaded that the reason it is there is because God is the ultimately Beautiful One and he made us to long for himself. Even the most perverted desire for beauty—say the desire to watch the excellence of strength and speed and skill as gladiators hack each other to death—even this desire is a distorted remnant of a good yearning which God put within us to lure us to himself. And we can know that our desires are remnants of this urge for God because everything less than God leaves us unsatisfied. He alone is the All-Satisfying Object of Beauty. Only one vision will be sufficient for our insatiable hearts—the glory of God. For that we have been made. And it is for this we long, whether we know it or not.
Whether you know it or not, all the longings of your life for beauty are longings for this: the light of the gospel of the beauty of Christ who is the image of God. Turn to Jesus as Lord! Open yourself to the Spirit of Christ. And the veil will be lifted.
O most glorious God,
You are worthy of all trust and obedience and adoration.
Yet I have sinned and see you so dimly.
But I now turn to the living Lord Jesus Christ,
And I invite your Spirit to fill my life.
Remove the veil from my heart
And grant me to behold your glory,
And help me be changed from one degree of glory to another.
* Photo courtesy of Sarah Gale Evers. Used with permission.
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