Holiness and Beauty: A Meditation
Being an amateur philosopher and a lover of the liberal arts, beauty and aesthetics have always fascinated me. The image of God as Creator, the ultimate source of creativity, has inspired unspeakable awe and wonder. The idea that beauty embodies holiness, or that we may find holiness in the experience of beauty (visually or through the beautiful act or the recognition of beautiful character), sends me back to my undergrad days, reading Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, meditating on the character and mind of God.
God’s holiness is reflected in the beauty of the earth God has created—with just a word! What creative power that Word holds! We, in response, can participate in that holiness when we participate in beauty—enjoying it and creating it.
Consider Isaiah 58:11 and Matthew 6:28-33. What do they tell us about God?
The nature imagery grabs my attention: the well-watered garden, the sun-scorched desert, the splendor of Solomon, the lilies of the field. And then the context of these verses strikes me: Isaiah 58:11 comes as a promise in the midst of fasting, observing the Sabbath, and serving the poor and marginalized. Matthew 6:28 comes in the midst of the sermon on the mount, as Jesus taught his listeners how to live and serve God.
These passages, these promises, require action on our parts. They require response!
Yet they also promise — in the midst of stress, grief, brokenness, doubt, uncertainty about the future — that God will sustain. They promise that whether we bear concerns of finances, employment, community, love, wisdom and discernment, gifts (creative, intellectual, or spiritual), God will provide.
My mind leaps from scripture to scripture.
Psalm 8—what are human beings that God is mindful of us?
Psalm 42—the deer pants for water.
Isaiah 6—the imagery-laden call in God’s throne room.
Revelation 22:17 – all who are thirsty come to the river of life.
1 Kings 10:23-25—an account of Solomon’s glory. Particularly with Solomon, I think it’s interesting that with all we can do and create on our own, with all the glory that Solomon amassed, it cannot hold a candle to the creative word of God that would speak a lily into existence.
God’s creativity and beauty, like God’s holiness, are so wholly other; yet we are made in the image of that creative and beautiful and holy God, and our words contain the power to create as well.
John 15:1-17—the fruit of the vine that results when we abide in the vine that is Jesus. It is from God that we get our creative gifts, but to use them properly and to their full abundance, we must remain attached to the God through whom flows that creative power. That holiness. That holy, holy, holy holiness. Otherwise we are nothing more than Solomon’s glory, amazing for a moment but lost forever after.
Psalm 29 – the beauty of holiness, this is not a new thought! The Israelites understood this deep connection between beauty and holiness, this innate part of God’s glory that must be recognized and responded to. This creativity is what we were created for (Gen 1-2), to bring forth fruit from the earth.
God provides. God sustains. God — by that creative word — speaks life into us, and we in turn are able to speak life into each other, into the world.
What a holy, beautiful truth.