I spent a lot of my sabbatical driving across these plains and prairies, witnessing beauty from the hand of the creator that made my soul ache and long for the thing all the beauty of this Earth is meant to point me to: the creator Himself.
There is temptation in the midst of the pain to forsake the beauty of it all. Don’t give in.
It has been said to be in the eye of the beholder, but the beholders have the same taste in this monochromatic world of ours. The term “beauty” has become cliché. We say something is “beautiful” when we have nothing left to say. The word has become a vague term of encouragement, yes, a buffer against the ugliness of it all.
Yet the beauty of it all remains.
St. Paul writes that it is the majesty of it all that leaves us without excuse before the God whom created it all with His words. He spoke and it was.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
He spoke and years later it still takes our breath away.
God breathed life into dust, and we are still taking our collective first breath.
We are so young, yet feel so old.
The infant God incarnate took His first breath to redeem all that marred the creation of the breath of God. Jesus cried as an infant, and this same Jesus cried out,
…“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’“
And He cried out from the Cross, long ago
“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The why looks a lot like you and I.
There’s beauty in His holy mourning.
There’s beauty in His holy grief.
The beauty of it all remains, and is yet to be fulfilled.
That day of fulfilled beauty shall rise with the rising of the dead in Christ.
And it shall be as it was back when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy.
When all who’ve suffered the ravages of this Genesis 3 world are restored.
When our loved ones live again.
When there are no victims, and there are no perpetrators of violence.
When all our sorrows are fully and finally washed away in the blood of the lamb.
May that day come swiftly, for on that day we will finally understand beauty.
Until then we are swamped in a deluge of cosmetic and gym membership commercials. Clothing companies and automakers assure us their products will make us desirable, yes, even beautiful to behold.
You are beautiful to the beholder.
He who sees all knows all. He who made you is not ashamed to call you beloved. That’s why He sent His Son to die in your place. So many think God only loves those covered in the Blood.
He ordained His Son to die for sinners long before any sinners happened to believe in Him. God does not look upon one’s beauty to determine His love, His love determines your beauty. God does not look upon the beautiful with love, nor does He look upon the ugly with derision. God sees the ugly of our sin and transforms us in the redemptive beauty of sacrifice.
And here we all are gazing in mirrors for redemption, when it seems to me we’d do better turning our eyes to Jesus.
I imagine that’s why James writes to remind us,
11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Beauty outside of Christ is perishable, like milk left out on the counter overnight, in the summer, in a house without central air.
The mugginess of life reminds us of our need of a savior.
Which is why Peter reminds wives and husbands that the beauty Christ gives is imperishable…
1 Peter 3:1-7
1 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear– 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.
Beautiful Inside & Out
“Beautiful inside and out” is a nice thing to say, although most people would prefer the outside part if they had to choose, though imperishable internal beauty is much more to be preferred for that kind of beauty comes from God alone.
And if you think men aren’t confused about what beauty is just walk into the men’s shaving section sometime and look all the goop they make for men to smear on their face… all the “Just for men” you can smear in your beard.
It’s all so bizarre when we think about what Isaiah said about our Jesus…
1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
How odd it is for Isaiah to say of Jesus, “He had no form of majesty that we should look upon Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him” only to go on and describe Him is such a way that we would desire Him because sacrificial love is the most beautiful thing there is.
As I read Isaiah 53 I thought to myself, “I want to be a man of God.”
You might be thinking, “Aren’t you?” I don’t know if that’s an area where you ever want to think you have arrived. It might be a dangerous thing to assume you’ve arrived when it comes to being a man or woman of God. So I wrote it down amongst the sermon research I scribble on legal pads.
If we rest in the Redemption Jesus has accomplished for us He’ll give us eyes to see the beauty of it all.
10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
There is great beauty in pursuing Christ Crucified for sinners.
There is greater beauty in Christ Crucified for Sinners pursuing you.