There is something magnetic about pure beauty. Fresh flowers have a simple, gaze-gripping splendor that I never tire of. Beauty stirs up something inside of me and refreshes my soul: autumn foliage, textured mountains, dancing streams, vibrant clay colored canyons, and wide open green spaces. They give me an indescribable thrill, how about you?
Even man-made beauty, such as a painting, an exquisitely crafted gown (dedicated Project Runway fan here), or a jaw-dropping plate of food— each evoke nearly speechless appreciation in me.
The goodness of the God we serve, that he would bother to create daisies that could be grown in just about all conceivable colors! The very fact that our sensory abilities enable us to perceive color, texture, and scent—that our brains can even register beauty and reap enjoyment from it is really quite incredible.
But is our enjoyment of beauty just a human thing? Or is that also a way we are made in God’s image?
While reading in Exodus of all places, I saw God intentionally choose beauty, for His own pleasure.
As Yahweh gives Moses the detailed instructions for the temple (Exodus 25-31, that’s seven chapters of meticulousness!), he tells him:
“Make holy garments for your brother Aaron, for glory and beauty.”Exodus 28:2
“Make tunics, sashes, and headbands for Aaron’s sons to give them glory and beauty.”Exodus 28:40
Who was this temple going to serve? God! The precision and symmetry and cohesion specified in these seven chapters of instructions is somewhat exhausting, but it demonstrates that beauty is something God appreciates!
God was so dedicated to the beauty of the temple being an appropriate reflection of Himself, that he carefully chose and equipped the right people for His job:
“Look, I have appointed by name Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with God’s spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every craft to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut gemstones for mounting, and to carve wood for work in every craft. I have also selected Oholiab…to be with him. I have placed wisdom within every skilled craftsman in order to make all that I have commanded you.”Exodus 31:1-6
The priority on beauty is a trademark of God’s house, the insignia of His Eden-restored.
Speaking of Eden, there are glimpses of God’s personal delight in beauty there too. In His creation of the garden in Genesis, we are told:
“The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.”Genesis 2:9
It was entirely possible for God to make trees that were just good for food and not particularly attractive. But He didn’t.
Another one I love is Genesis 3:8. We tend to miss this one because we are so focused on Adam and Eve’s big screw up. But look at the hints of God’s habit and intentionality here:
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day”Genesis 3:8
God selected a beautiful and enjoyable time to walk the garden: in the cool of the day. And He apparently enjoyed walking among the beauty of the garden often, because Adam and Eve recognized the sound of the Lord God as he was walking. This little window into God with us just blows my mind and makes me giddy with excitement. Seeing myself in my Father-Creator knits my heart to His and fills me with joy!
Our pursuit, enjoyment, and creation of beauty is a trait from our Maker!
It is our response to beauty that becomes a question:
Which Will We Worship?
As C.S. Lewis states so famously, beauty is meant to evoke worship of God.
Gratitude exclaims, very properly, ‘How good of God to give me this.’ Adoration says, ‘What must be the quality of that Being whose far-off and momentary coruscations are like this!’ One’s mind runs back up the sunbeam to the sun.C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer
The unfractured, unblemished splendor of who God is, is manifested in pure beauty.
There is inherent goodness in beauty because its very existence flows out of God’s nature and reflects His character.
The question is: will we value the Source of the beauty more than the beauty itself? One leads to worship while the other leads to idolatry.
Eve was surrounded with every beautiful and perfect thing in Eden, and yet she began to covet and crave the beauty itself and forget the goodness and supreme value of the beauty-Giver.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.Genesis 3:6
Beauty is not the problem. Beauty exists to point us to the source of total soul satisfaction and delight.
When you behold an incredible sunset and you’re in awe all over again, do you worship the God who painted that sunset? Worship shows the world the thread connecting beauty to the Beautiful One.
When beauty becomes the highest pursuit, what was good becomes perverted.
Displays of beauty are opportunities to declare the goodness of God, and respond to it in worship.
When Moses Encountered Ultimate Beauty
In Exodus 33 and 34 God gives Moses an unparalleled glimpse of Himself. He tells Moses:
“I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you”Exodus 33:19
Then God hides Moses in the crevice of a rock and passes by, allowing Moses just a peek. Moses beholds God’s glory (in part) and hears God testify to what his eyes behold:
The Lord passed in front of [Moses] and proclaimed: The Lord — the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.
Moses immediately knelt low on the ground and worshiped.Exodus 34:6-8
Moses beheld God’s goodness and glory in the form of beauty, and he worshiped!
The writer of Exodus emphasizes the glaring beauty reflected on Moses’s face— he repeats it three times!
“the skin of his face shone…the skin of his face shone!…Moses’ face was radiant.”Exodus 34:29, 30, 35
Radiant beauty is a manifestation of God’s character; it should evoke worship of the One it reflects.
Declaring God’s Goodness Through Beauty
Like Bezalel in Exodus 31, God has appointed you by name, with unique style, gifting, and resources to reflect His character.
The beauty you create is an opportunity to invite others to behold the Source of beauty and worship.
This is what Yahweh did with Moses, and Moses in turn did with Israel. This is the purpose of many of the Psalms!
In a culture that approves of embracing the household mess, letting yourself go, #messyhairdontcare, there is a tendency to shame anyone who seeks to beautify their home or create pretty things, labeling it “vanity” or “perfectionism”.
The intentional beautification of our surroundings images God. It is also a response to His call for restoration in a world of brokenness and sin. Beauty is a pleasing incense to the Lord.
We can stir a longing for that ultimate, eternal Eden in ourselves and in others when we attentively bring beauty to the things we tend. We are saying, “Look! Isn’t this good and pleasing? This was God’s idea! And there will be so much more of it when we arrive in our forever home.” For:
He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”Revelation 21:5
Reflecting God’s goodness is holy work.
Look for ways to put beauty in its right place: as an invitation to worship.
His Goodness in Granola
This granola is something my sister started making, and then my mother caught on and she makes it almost weekly. I didn’t think myself much of a granola person, but after repeatedly scarfing down handfuls of it while it cooled on her stove-top, I realized I should probably just make some of my own instead of depleting her stash. Sorry, mom.
Oh, and to answer the all-important question: “Does it cluster?”. Yes, yes it does.
It’s common to think that making pretty food is difficult or time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. That bowl up there is just so beautiful with its varying textures and flavors. Set on the backdrop of a crisp white dish and a linen napkin, it makes me thankful we get to eat food, and have fun putting it together.
This pretty palette of food took all of 3 minutes. Just grab the following ingredients and make little “piles” in the bowl of your choice. Isn’t it funny how we always have a favorite mug or bowl? There it is again, more beauty to draw us back to Him.
Here’s what you need for a breakfast bowl:
- That addictive granola
- Vanilla yogurt
- Almond butter or peanut butter (the freshly ground kind is my favorite)
- Sliced bananas
- Cinnamon (for dusting the yogurt)
- Chia seeds (optional, for the bananas)