Starved for Beauty
On November 30, I injured my right knee to the point that I had to use crutches, then graduated to a walker, and finally to a cane. I am now appliance-free most of the time, but I have been told not to hike or ride my bike up hills. The bone-on-bone condition of the knee makes these things painful but also exacerbates the injury.
These two activities—hiking and riding my bike on the hills around me—are two primary ways I connect with God. I follow up my morning lectio divina with one of these things and I experience God’s companionship and often receive guidance that I’m certain comes from God. Apparently these activities are also mood enhancers because not being able to do them created a persistent crabbiness that required inner courage. I’ve needed “fortitude,” that is, stamina or “staying” power to maintain a relentless inner gratefulness. I wondered how God might help me do that.
Without realizing it, I began doing unusual things just so my eyes can feast on beauty: getting up at 5 AM to watch the sun rise; watching as many sunsets as possible with not-so-convenient trips to the beach to get the best vantage point; rearranging plants in my yard to feast my eyes on; listening non-stop to a classical piano Pandora station; buying an LED lit Christmas tree that is still up and lit every moment we are awake. These are not frills for me just now; they are necessities. Why?
Without daily hikes and bike rides, I’ve been starved for beauty. I need beauty more than ever because it not only blocks out pain and inertia but also helps me connect with God. I’m being helped in thinking about this by reading an advance copy of The Magnificent Story by my friend James Bryan Smith. In his book, he talks about the three transcendental longings—desires that stand above the physical realm and outshine them. The three longings are for beauty, truth and goodness.
Not only do I need these, but our culture needs them. Our current obsession with entertainment is, I believe, a sign that we are longing for joy, longing to be truly astounded! In the acrimony of our current political climate, some of us are aching—nearly choking—for true beauty, goodness and truth because they are very powerful. “Beauty stops us in our tracks. Many people who gaze on the Grand Canyon find themselves at a loss for words,” says Jim. He goes on to talk about eagerly watching home renovation television shows. At the end, people walk through their homes, declaring them to be beautiful. “I once counted the number of times they used the word beautiful: eleven times in two minutes.”
For now, extra doses of beauty are stopping me in the tracks of crabbiness and reminding me that “I am one in whom Christ delights and dwells, and that I live in the strong and unshakable Kingdom of God.” What kinds of beauty stops you in your tracks? Why? Does it help you connect with God in some way? I’m posting these questions on my Facebook Author page and I’d love to hear from you.
Grace and Peace
I’ve just spent a week in the beauty of the Spiritual Life Center in Wichita, KS. My fave places are the life-size diorama of the wedding feast at Cana and the small chapel filled with light.
There I also experience the beauty of working with people like Jim Smith in leading Apprentice Experience a 2-year journey of studying and practicing formation. Our theme “I am one in whom Christ delights . . .” (see above) immerses me in truth and goodness. The way students encounter God in so many ways is yet another source of beauty for me. I invite you to join us. Application deadline: April 30.)
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