The cry of the Christian’s heart is to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, and to gaze on God’s beauty (Ps. 27:4). Seeing beauty is a slow process—It involves savoring horizontal sensorial experience that pulls our hearts and minds up vertically in praise. This process is counter-cultural, for rarely is our society intentionally slow. I’d like to draw attention to three things that happen when, through the focusing power of a gospel lens, we slow our pace to seek and savor beauty: we steward wonder, we grow in thankfulness, and we cultivate joy in Christ.
Beauty triggers us to wonder, but in our hustle of daily life, we can inadvertently neglect savoring this gift from the Lord. In the absence of pondering beauty, we can easily grow disenchanted with whom we should be wholly enchanted. This is the purpose of wonder in the Christian life—to draw our eyes upward in praise. Praise is the reflex of wonder.
How do we exercise our hearts to properly slow down and wonder, broadening the breadth and depth of our praises to the Lord? Our natural desire for efficiency of accomplishment is not inherently evil. After all, as we see in creation, God is efficient. God made the world and sustains it. He speaks and brings forth life (Gen. 1). He supplies every need in every moment of our existence (Phil. 4:19). He is before all things and holds them together (Col. 1:17). Thus, there is no denying God’s efficiency. We desire efficiency because we are made in God’s image—this is good and right! However, our problem is when we desire efficiency for its own sake and at the expense of beholding beauty.
As we open our eyes to beauty, our minds are drawn up to the Lord as we reflect the world God has spoken into existence. He has given all manner of shapes, colors, scents, textures, and sounds. He colors a canvas of sky with clouds and light anew each morning and evening (Ps. 19:1). Although God could have created the world colorless, flat, and plain, he chose to adorn it with valleys rarely traversed, oceans too deep to navigate, wildflowers in bloom, and a multitude of undiscovered creatures, all existing for God’s glory with no mind to the efficiency of man.
What is the purpose of creation’s beauty? It is to showcase his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature, which are clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Rom. 1:20). Creation itself declares that he is worthy of praise. When we wonder at the myriad displays of his beauty, we draw near in worship.
Growing in Thankfulness
Our worship, driven by well-stewarded wonder, elicits an artful response of imaging the God who creates beautiful things. A couple labels are helpful here: “original” art and “derivative” art. God’s creation is original art. By reflecting on the beauty of this type of art, we can see how God is limitless and we are limited—we cannot make something from nothing; only God can. We can, however, (and arguably ought to) steward the created beauty God has given us by rearranging color, form, pattern, sound, taste, texture, and words to form derivative art.
This art imitates. It points toward him. We are made in the image of the Creator (Gen. 1:27)—it is written in our souls to reflect him. Seeing original beauty stirs wonder, prompting us to respond in beauty–to sing of God’s strength and love (Ps. 59:16) or to paint, write, plan, and/or curate in any number of methods and media in and of God’s strength and love. To worshipfully respond in derivative beauty is to glorify God in thankfulness.
The Christian properly wondering and responding in derivative art says: “Father I am so thankful for who you are! I see how you clothe the flowers more gloriously and splendidly than even Solomon (Matt. 6:28). The overflow of beauty you make drives me to see your goodness. I want to return that beauty back to you in glory. You invented cotton and color, I’ll arrange it in a quilt reflecting your beauty and how you comfort me.” Or: “You make fields of flowers—I’ve arranged a bouquet to spur happiness and joy. A humble nod to you, my greatest joy. Be glorified in it, Lord. I have nothing of my own to give but the beauty with which you give first. I am so thankful.”
Cultivating Joy in Christ
Thankfulness fertilizes the soil from which the seeds of godly joy spring forth. Throughout the Bible, where there is thankfulness, joy is close at hand. Psalm 100 charges us to make a joyful noise and be thankful. Paul prays for believers to be strengthened according to God’s glorious might, for endurance and patience with joy (Col. 1:11-12). First Thessalonians 5:16-18 charges us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks continually.
Watching for and meditating on beauty drives us to first look to God, then respond in thankful worship, and ultimately grows our joy in Christ, for Jesus is the crowning pinnacle of God’s beauty. He is the radiance of the invisible God and the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3). It is Jesus himself in whose love we are called to abide, and in doing so, we will have fullness of joy (Jn. 15:9-11).
Domineque Lacure (BA, Indiana University Southeast) is a member of Oak Park Baptist Church. She lives in New Albany with her husband, Tyler, and their three children.