I am fascinated by the notion of beauty. What is it? Why did God give it to us? Myself personally, I am an action-driven, idealist kind of person. The notion of justice is a familiar and comfortable tenant of my faith and Christian life. As such, it becomes a susceptible temptation to judge the artists and beauty-makers of our world for their inaction. “Christians should be about fighting for justice for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized! It’s written all over the Bible!” And it is! I could quote any number of passages that reaffirm God’s heart and identification with those our world deems “the least of these.” But as of late, God has been guiding me along a different thought path, to consider why God put beauty into our world. Honestly, it’s been quite vulnerable. Though in truth, it is the challenging and vulnerable where God most readily meets us.
There is an account of beauty appearing right at the beginning of God’s Creation narrative. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9). I have read over this passage so many times without thinking twice, but in it lies a theological treasure. Adam and Eve already had the tree of life – that sustained their every need. Even so, God made “trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” The message to me is clear: God wants us to experience beauty. Not as a medium for change. Not for any effective benefit. Simply to delight in God and God’s creative genius.
The frightening part for me is that beauty is terribly inefficient. It accomplishes nothing. And that’s precisely the point. There’s an oft-quoted saying, “We are human beings, not human doings.” That is how God created us; not to do, but to be in full connection with the Divine. In the brokenness of the world, there are great divides that keep us from being able to be fully connected with God. As one with an affinity for liberation theology, I deeply believe that we cannot be in full, right relationship with the God of the Oppressed until the oppressed have been liberated of their shackles. And so, there is a doing that is necessitated in order to return to a state where we can just be with God. We do in order to be. But as we go about doing – myself and my team in SYM, you all in the various capacities and callings you follow – we mustn’t forget the why behind the what. We do in order to be. We fight for a healed world because we live for an age and a world where people are in right relationship with God, uninhibited by the brokenness of this world. As we pray for God’s Kingdom come and live lives pursuing that goal, may we take time to sit in beauty without an agenda, to center ourselves on the beauty of our Creator God and the purpose behind our callings.