My dear friend suggested we spend a day together worshiping God in the beauty of the nature, outside of the buildings where we usually meet. We spent Sunday driving on the back roads in the countryside here in the valley in Southern British Columbia between the Rockies and the Purcell Mountains. We stopped to admire the many shades of green on the hillsides as new leaves appear. We balanced on a log bridge crossing a trickle creek so we could see a bubbling pool that flowed out of a natural spring up ahead. We shut the car engine off near a marsh to listen to the newly arrived songbirds.
I was so thankful she urged me to drop everything and go with her. It’s been too long. My soul felt restored. How wonderful to share this moment with a beautiful friend.
Yesterday, on the way home from an appointment in another town I turned off the highway again. As I walked across fields and up hills I was rewarded with the sunny faces of thousands of balsam root sunflowers, blooming earlier than usual this year. The scent of approaching rain blew in with a fine cooling mist. My soul drank in beauty.
A man I know set aside a career as a concert pianist and teacher in his homeland to give aid to the people of Cambodia. He moved across the world to do what he could to help them rebuild their lives after the devastating Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge years.
“What do you need?” he asked. “What is most important to you?”
Their answer surprised him.
“Music,” they said. “We have enough food and shelter. We can survive. Now we need music. We need to fill our ears with something beautiful so we can live again.”
After the horror of lies and violence and exploitation we need beauty to restore our souls. But music comes to an end and flowers droop and die. When my bruised soul, wounded by the ugliness of my own and other people’s sin, seeks refuge where can I go but to the Lord, to seek His beauty?
How is it that a young child can recognize beauty? Why are we attracted to beautiful things – music, art, poetry, dance, light, colour, design, order, balance, play? Who placed the appreciation of creation in our hearts? Why does the sound of a babbling brook in the meadow or singing birds in the woods, or the sight of snow on the mountain tops or reflections in a turquoise lake produce a sigh of relief in our hearts? Why do even infants want to move to music? Why does a pretty face make us want to return a smile? Who planted the craving for beauty within us?
The Psalmist wrote:
I am pleading with the Eternal for this one thing,
my soul’s desire:
To live with Him all of my days—
in the shadow of His temple,
To behold His beauty and ponder His ways
in the company of His people.
(Psalm 27:4 The Voice)
To behold His beauty is to be intentional. Just as I needed to make an effort to leave my work and obligations behind to go out to the meadows and forests, to sit beside the gentle stream, to climb the hill to where the flowers bloom, so I need to be intentional about seeking God’s presence. I enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart; I enter his courts with praise. I focus on Him. When I spend time beholding, and pondering His beauty, I begin to understand that ultimate beauty lies in the Creator of beauty.
Spending time admiring his handiwork reminds me of His beauty. Beauty is not essential for survival. It’s a gift that reveals the nature of the Giver.
All His works shall praise His name in earth and sky and sea.