“Ever since I was twelve years old, I have been deeply moved by beauty,” a friend wrote in response to a recent post. “When I take my morning coffee out onto the back deck, I am surrounded by so many shades of green from the vine maples, Douglas fir, hemlock, Oregon grape, aspen and other indigenous plants that grow in our back yard. As the morning light filters through their leaves, I am moved by this beauty that is part of my everyday life. My heart swells just being among the trees.”
Mine swells too as I picture my friend there and remember what John O’Donahue said in Beauty: The Invisible Embrace: “The human soul is hungry for beauty.”
When I finished working at New Life Church last year, Fred and I went to the Oregon coast for few days. All I wanted to do was walk by the ocean, smell the air, and listen to the waves caress the shore.
“I haven’t prayed much since we’ve been here,” I confessed to Fred as we walked.
“This is prayer,” he told me and the waves said “Amen.”
Beauty filled my hungry soul. I was seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and touching God.
We know in our heads that we are always in God’s presence, and this knowledge eventually works its way down to our hearts where we (sort of) believe it. But, when we encounter beauty, our hearts instantly recognize God. “In the experience of beauty, we awaken and surrender in the same act,” said O’Donahue.
In Psalm 27, David wrote,
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
What was David looking at when he gazed on the beauty of the Lord? The temple in Jerusalem hadn’t been built yet. Was he looking at the temple of the earth which is full of God’s glory?
Beauty is God’s glory. It’s all around us–in the sound of laughter, the smell of rain, the taste of a strawberry, a cool summer breeze, and the face of everyone we see.
God is so beautiful.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of your glory.
— Isaiah 6:3