Is beauty simply ‘in the eye of the beholder’? Surely, it’s so much more!? Beauty can be enjoyed, experienced, and explored through taste, touch, smell, hearing and the 6th sense of spiritual ‘soul-sight’? Yet, is beauty always subjective, dependent upon the person engaged by beauty? In the art world artistic creativity can provoke opposing views, gorgeous to one and thoroughly ugly to another.
Other words used to describe ‘beauty’ are: admirable, adorable, alluring, angelic, appealing, bewitching, captivating, charming, classy, comely, cute, dazzling, delicate, delightful, elegant, enthralling, enticing, excellent, exquisite, fair, fascinating, fetching, fine, gorgeous, graceful, grand, handsome, ideal, inviting, divine.
But beauty can be hard to put into words. It can challenge our convictions and behaviour. If allowed, beauty takes us on a journey into the unknown, draws us deeper into the mystery of our existence, brings us to the edge of God’s Glory, intrigues, and interests us in the possibility of beautiful intimacy with God. Take the cherry blossom of recent weeks, radiant on branch and blown like confetti. Kerr Drive, Symington Kirkyard, and fondly remembered late headmaster Joe McMaster’s memorial tree at Loudoun Montgomery Primary School, have been resplendent in bloom.
Beauty can stop us in our tracks, like King David arrested by the inner & outer beauty of Abigail on her knees to divert David’s anger and intention to murder her foolish husband Nabal. And in the Eastern Orthodox Church (Oh that President Putin might take heed) the use of icons and beauty encourages us to discipline ourselves in using beauty as a window through which recognise and worship God in God’s mystery and majesty. Such a holy habit honours beauty as a witness to God & call to prayer, pointing beyond our senses to a more profound intimacy with God.
However, such is the power of beauty, it can easily become an end-in-itself, an idol worshipped. Many gather at the opening to Irvine Harbour, and other viewpoints around the world, to witness glorious sunsets. The WoW factor is sure, but praise can simply go to the sunset itself and act as a mirror to confirm one’s self, rather than draw us in wonder to glimpse the glory of The Creator and Heavenly Parent Who has proved His Love for Us through the death, and Son-rise, of Jesus Christ. Beauty falls short of God’s Gleam & Glory.
John 1:14 in The Message Bible puts it like this, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.” All beauty can draw us to wonder and engage with God through Jesus, and reflect such beauty.
I love the story of a young woman on the subway responding to the hate-spitting preacher who entered her full carriage to tell all they were going to hell. She had wrestled for long with her esteem and identity, but knew she had to do something, so she started singing, “Row, row, row the boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.” Soon the whole rush-hour packed carriage was singing it, continuing in rounds long after the preacher had cut his losses and exited the train. BEAUTIFUL!