“The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.” (Jesus, Sermon on the Mount)
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (King David)
Noticing Beauty — Part 3
by Julie Leppert
A whisper and a listening are the modalities of Beauty.
A seascape and a rose, a bride and her groom, these, too, are the ways in which Beauty speaks and dwells.
A beholding — it is how we notice Beauty, how we are gathered up by it.
How it is taken in,
like holy sacrament,
as if a miracle were occurring,
a rosebud unfolding.
Beauty calls us to life.
It sends out her song with each sunrise.
Every single day.
Have you ever noticed her melody, how it moves and how it sounds?
The notes of a song that anchor and move us forward in time
amid rising and shifting harmonies, the waves cresting and falling,
caressing and dancing upon lyrical sands — this, a melody — and
in the pausing, in the listening we touch things intangible.
Indeed, we are made new.
Beauty is experienced in various forms. We interact with it sometimes even when we are least noticing what is occurring.
I wonder, for us, when it comes to Beauty, is there something we end up ignoring but at which our heart quickens when it considers the sun lighting upon the fields each morning?
I ask the question. Hold onto it. Consider it.
You see, in these our lives, if there’s something we women really do well day to day, it is that we touch time. And space. And baby’s toes.
And when we do, we are drawn into a sacred moment — again and again. And, if we linger just long enough, beholding, observing, dwelling there with our senses engaged — smelling, feeling, listening, tasting, seeing — we may just hear lifting above all the thousands of busy and untidy things in our days the words to a song which says:
You are invited.
The pewter goblets are set and the windmill cookies are simple, but the whole elegance says, “You are invited, won’t you join me?”
Do you hear it? Yes.
Beauty. Invites. You.
It speaks the language of Love, and it answers to longing. It exists in its own place, its own way, with no other purpose than to be and to invite — and in responding with delight, we are made well, yet not entirely well; for Beauty makes us increasingly aware of something more.
One meal at a time.
One task at a time.
One smile at a time.
One intimacy at a time.
And so we discover, in time, that, yes …
We are the hungering ones.
We hunger for Beauty.
And it’s okay.
You see, with right hunger properly met comes particular fulfillment.
Jesus tells about it in his mountainside talk. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
What does this have to do with Beauty?
Beauty is a kind of rightness. We know this. We name a thing ugly when its anticipated form is altered or disfigured so irregularly that we react to it with shock or dismay. Like a burned victim of war. Or the stripping of the earth by mining.
You see, Beauty’s essence flows from the person of God — God who is holy; yet, this, our world, is broken in as many ways as Beauty exists. We know this intuitively and react when something is amiss. A vase falls and smashes into pieces, and we rush to gather it up and mend it — if it were possible.
If you will, the holiness of God is akin to Beauty.
Yet, Beauty becomes a consumable commodity. We buy it, sell it, package it, and do it all over again tomorrow, because we’re never quite satisfied.
So we control it and do things with it that bring us promise to our longing. We also fear Beauty. For in our possession, it could be marred, yet without it, we feel inexplicably undone.
So, with fear and trembling, we may grasp hold of it, as it IS a kind of rightness for which our soul desperately hungers — a kind of holiness, a completeness, which we know deep in our bones we have lost or misplaced.
If we follow Beauty — if we stop doing things with it as if it were a thing to be greedily gathered up like manna in a barren dessert — but, instead, as one who is lost follows a stream to its source, we will find the Creator — the One in whom all things consist. Who holds us together.
Beauty will draw us to Him and to each other.
I think of the psalm where God is described as Lord and Shepherd. And I think of a talk spoken by the director of Circe Institute, Andrew Kern:
“You become what you behold.”
Maybe he borrowed the phrase. I don’t know, but I do know something essential about this business of beholding and Beauty:
When life presses in around us, sometimes the thing we least notice — but most need — is a deep awareness of God’s eternal Beauty and how his nearness is made tangible to our senses through the Beauty he prepares for us.
“Like a table in the presence of our enemies,” where the Lord-Shepherd is found.
Does it sound too theatrical, theoretical, or like an abstraction?
Beauty is the sunset splashing deep golden colors across the lake’s surface. It is the towhee singing its love note from the Creator and the friend who notices and can interpret the song.
It’s the literal green grass beneath our feet. It’s the puppy’s pink tongue licking your fingers. It is a meadow filled with wildflowers on which to lie down.
I want a meadow. Don’t you?
You know, I think we’ve been given at least one or two meadows — it’s just seeing it is the trouble. It’s making time, looking, beholding. It’s locating where the Shepherd is and seeing what he’s doing or has done already.
It means stopping. Laying aside our busyness. And really seeing the people and landscape of our lives with fresh eyes. And resisting the urge to treat one another and things lovely and good as if they were meant to be devoured when they (and we) were not ever meant for such handling.
Really, it’s that simple.
Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:22-23)
Beholding Beauty cleanses our eyes. And in noticing Beauty, we recognize it speaks to our desires. I am not talking about the sort of lustful looking that intends to consume or corrupt a thing most precious to fill a ravenous hungering of the soul wrongly. I mean the sort of beholding that occurs within the heart and draws us near to God.
You may recognize the deep theological tremors that shake miles of strata beneath calloused soles. Because for one brief while, we may just hear the voice that says to us, like to the stuttering prince of Egypt, “Take off your sandals.” This is holy ground. You see …
Beauty. Invites. Our participation.
If you’ve come this far — reading all 3 parts of Beauty — I want to leave us with something simple and practical. And, yes, it’s the theology rumbling beneath our feet.
It’s the dew upon the morning grass. It’s the noticing and the beholding. It’s the change from glory to glory when we look into God’s mirror. (Oh, how we women love-hate our mirrors). It’s the delicate lips gently placed on mother’s cheek by her growing baby who stands strong upon her knees. It’s the brush of a calloused but tender hand on tired feet, working out the sore. It’s the song simply sung or the cherries plucked gently with mercy and peace.
Beauty emanates from God’s own being. Beauty is Immanuel, God with us, calling to us by His Spirit — as he once did salted, sweaty fishermen, only then, He used his voice, air and vibrations mingling, moving as liquid across his own vocal chords. A voice of many waters, the prophet says. If you hear his voice through Beauty, though, it is enough. We need not despair. Beauty brings to us His invitation.
And the song is called Redemption.
We who hear her get to respond.
Yet, how do we, as women, respond to Beauty? How do we stay open to Beauty’s invitation when the world breaks apart around us? When it seems more dead-end or down-right dangerous than life-giving?
When the Beauty gets piled under the dust and dying.
It’s that small talk. That self talk. It’s pausing to hear your heart beat or the wings of the red-winged black bird as it alights from the power line by the field of sweet corn.
So, let’s do this, let’s begin with simply one thing:
Beholding Beauty amidst our fragile, busy, hectic days.
Yes, this requires us to pause.
And like we respond to our Love’s voice at the end of a long day, we speak a particular language just for Beauty, in reply. I believe our responsive language to Beauty is thanksgiving and praise. It naturally fills our breasts and rumbles out of our beings, like air from a baby’s lungs at birth. And so we, too, come alive in response to the Creator who gives all good gifts. Every. One.
We are not worshiping a false god, but we are crying holy, holy, holy with the seraphs to the One lifted most high, and Beauty invites us to do so.
What are some practical ways you may spend with Beauty?
In a relationship. With yourself. With your child. With your husband. A friend. God. Go ahead, this is for you — an invitation. Just pick one — and go gently. Plan a place and a time to notice Beauty in that person, in your surroundings, in yourself or another someone.
Don’t rush off.
Don’t check it off your list.
And where ugliness shows up, pause. Let your heart beat and notice the discord. Don’t ignore it. Don’t try to cover it up. Or get busy with other things. But choose something else in its place, intentionally.
Perhaps simply a prayer for help is all you must do. And wait there in the presence of redemption. For our Redeemer somehow morphs our brokenness into Beauty.
The pausing, the noticing, the praying — these are so simple it may feel disappointing.
But our response is never small. For when we respond to Beauty, we draw near to God, and something in ourselves comes alive in His presence. And when you are ready, behold Jesus, for you have already been looking His direction. In fullness of Beauty he dwells amidst us. The Beautiful One. You will fall apart at the awareness of being undone, but it’s okay, He will put you back together, again.
Now one more invitation awaits you — you are invited to check out Heart Working Women’s 2016 Fall Conference here. We would be thrilled for you to join us.