…to help you apply this month’s newsletter to your own walk with God.
I was delighted that David mentioned the “Multitudes” project in his lead article, because it made this the perfect edition to talk about the importance of art, beauty and creativity for reaching out, in worship, etc. This month’s “So what?” is about beauty in particular.
I’m a big appreciator of God’s beauty, and of the ways that He speaks to us so profoundly through it.
A few years ago I had the privilege of teaching high schoolers during our weekend Ingathering. We talked about many things that we could learn from the life of David, before and after he became king of Israel. We even contrasted David’s attraction to certain women, and how those attractions played out. One of those women was Abigail, another was Saul’s daughter Michal, and the last, of course was Bathsheba.*
Here was one of the points I wanted them to remember: Everything that is truly beautiful is attractive, but not everything that is attractive is truly beautiful.
Everything that is truly beautiful is attractive, but not everything that is attractive is truly beautiful.
True beauty has a goodness that is both appealing to the senses and to the heart and soul. It can stir desire, but it’s not a desire merely to consume and be gratified.
I’ll never forget the response of one young man on the last day, when I asked what the kids thought they might take home and remember, something that could be useful in day-to-day life. This handsome high school senior seemed thoughtful and a little rueful as he said, “It’s not that hard getting a girlfriend who is attractive. There are lots of nice looking girls. Finding someone who is truly beautiful would be a lot harder, but I think it would be worth it. I think I need to make the extra effort even if it takes longer.”
He got the message. I don’t know if he got the girlfriend.
My experience with true and deep beauty is that it can lead to bittersweet pangs; profound beauty can cause what C.S. Lewis referenced as “the blue flower of desire” or sensucht—that longing for a far off country that is not of this earth. It’s a desire that Lewis believed can only ever be fully satisfied and enjoyed in the presence of the Source-of-All-that-is-Truly-Beautiful. That resonates with me.
True beauty gives joy—the kind of joy that fortifies and strengthens but also leaves you wanting something more, that transcendent “other.”
So what? Let’s make the effort to pursue true beauty, and/or to cultivate true beauty in ourselves. I remember sitting across from an older couple and telling the wife, “If I live into my 80s as you have, I hope I can look as beautiful as you do.” It wasn’t just her lovely silver hair or that she had taken obvious care with her appearance. It was her smile and something intangible that seemed to radiate beauty and goodness. I felt that if I spent time with her, I would learn a lot about life and how to be content.
And here’s another way to apply beauty to your life. If you are feeling stressed or sad, why not take a beauty break? Go for a hike, if you can, and take time to look at God’s creation. Let yourself feel how it points beyond itself to the Creator. If that’s not your thing, look at a favorite piece of art or listen to a beautiful piece of music. Look at a face you love. Buy a big box of crayons and just look at all the colors. Take a beauty break, and may you be refreshed and renewed!
*That’s not to say that Bathsheba did not have that element of wisdom, depth or goodness that transforms someone who is visually appealing to someone who is truly beautiful. We don’t know much about her. But David’s attraction to her, at least initially, appeared to be no more than a visceral response to her body from afar, as opposed to his encounter with Abigail.