A Longing For Beauty

BEAUTY. What does it mean? Ask a group of women or men what they find beautiful in the opposite sex and you will get varied answers. All of us, whether we are an artist of some kind or just one who admires it, are enthralled by what we call “beauty”. The debate rages in aesthetics classes across university campuses and art criticism as to what exactly is beautiful. On one level beauty is usually understood as that which we can see - that woman’s beauty was stunning, that man is handsome, that painting is splendid, that photograph of the Hawaiian sunset is breath taking etc. Deeply planted within humanity is a desire to recover and preserver beauty.

God is beautiful. Everything about Him is perfect and glorious. God created this beautiful place called earth. In the beginning it was grand…better than an Ansel Adams photograph, or the early American frontier painters (Hudson River School). Earth was a living painting in 3-D. I wonder sometimes what it would have been like to live at the beginning before Adam and Eve screwed it all up. I imagine it to have that smell after it has just rained – clean fresh. It probably had the best of every natural wonder all packed into one vast greatness - Thomas Kinkade only dreams of it. You wouldn’t have to leave on vacation because all of it is paradise – perfect weather, water, natural resources, and breath taking scenery. It’s like walking through a live impressionistic painting by Monet with vivid colors and flowers all around.  Maybe it was much like the Robin Williams movie “What Dreams May Come”. As we walk we hear birds and butterflies everywhere…if we get hungry we just reach out to pick an over sized perfect fruit – no need to wash it it’s without germs or pesticides…yes perfect!        

Christ came to fulfill our longing for beauty, our longing for the perfect, the ideal. C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book Till We Have Faces, “It was when I was happiest that I longed the most…The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from”. Our knowledge of Christ fulfills our empty hollow attempts to bring meaning, happiness, and, satisfaction to our work. Because alone we are not perfect nor do we create perfect things; our efforts fall short. The more we allow our imperfections to show in our life and in our work the more God’s creative truth can shine and refract off the imperfection, much like the diamond, creating a shimmer that never before existed. Don’t cover up the flaws but reveal and heal - allow God’s light to shine on your imperfect works of art.

A diamond starts as a chunk of ugly stone on the outside. A pearl starts as a grain of sand caught in an oyster. So too, our beauty comes from our ugliness (our imperfection). Our flaws are made perfect in God not independent of him. As creative people it is our job to think on these things and give expression to them. An artist not in touch with his frailty is an artist who creates out of a self-centered fog. Clarity of self, of who we are in Christ, gives birth to original and authentic expression. 

We are made in the image of our creator. God is our master art teacher. When the artist comes to terms with the fact that he is not perfect, and he never will be, and it’s okay not to be, only than will God’s truth free us to create in a realm of Godly perfection. We creative people so desperately need to trust God in our art making or our expression will be no different then that of the unbeliever. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “without faith it is impossible to please God”. I want God to "see that my work is good" just as He saw that his work was good in Genesis. We need to understand that God receives our “acknowledged” imperfect expression as pure and authentic praise. Our inadequate attempts at trying to be perfect will indeed be made perfect in him and to him. 

(original painting: "Till We Have Faces". acrylic on cold press paper)


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