Friday, June 15, 2012

Beauty and Holiness

"It is easier to enjoy beauty than to sense the holy"(1)
- Abraham Joshua Heschel

My family moved to Florida a few years ago. I hate the heat, the humidity, the bugs, and--believe it or not--the beach. I am not a fan of Florida at all. But every time I visit, Florida manages to win my heart at a certain time every day: sunset.
The Florida sunsets are incredible.
Sometimes, I would be driving and would look at the sky and think, "Am I the only one seeing this?" To me, it is the equivalent of watching a huge rocket slowly shoot up into space.

"Do you see that?!" I would ask my brother. 

"Yah...it happens every day," he said.
Yes, it does happen every day. But there is something about me--no matter what mood I am in, if I had the worst day, if I am depressed, if I am angry, if I hate life, if I am bitter towards God--every time I see a sunset it becomes an opportunity for me to start over. It's like my whole day is wiped clean and my mind is cleared. In that moment of clarity, I can see grace.
Karl Rahner explains grace as the self-communication of God, always offered to all people at all times. Accepting that grace means saying 'Yes' to God.(2)

When I am in my awe-inspired state of clarity, I can look at the negative state in which my mind had been all day, and I can look at grace, and I have a perfect chance to say, "Yes, God."
"In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and in every withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it."(3)
- Oswald Chambers
Sure, sunsets happen every day, but so does God.
Grace is always present. Holiness is always present. God is in all things, presented before humanity saying "Here I am. You can acknowledge me or not, but I am here."
So many people drove down I-75 during that sunset and didn't pay it any mind, just like people live their lives every day and don't pay God any mind.
"Learn to associate ideas worthy of God with all that happens in Nature--the sunrises and the sunsets, the sun and the stars, the changing season, and your imagination will never be at the mercy of your impulses, but will always be at the service of God."(4)
- Oswald Chambers
Live your life with the notion that beauty is synonymous with holiness.
As Eugene Peterson said, "The physical is holy."(5)

I was driving to Norfolk one night with my fiancee and we were listening to an old 1930's recording of Louis Armstrong's "When You're Smiling" when the most miraculous sunset began to form in the sky. I was captivated by it's beauty to the very depths of my being. 
I turned to to my fiancee, who was smiling with the softest, most peaceful smile. The calm sound of the music was so soothing and inspired joy in my heart. I felt the lyrics as I watched her: "When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you."
I turned back to the sunset and I couldn't help but think, "I am in love with God, and life is so beautiful." I could sense the holy.
"Jesus was the master sacramentalist. He used anything at hand to bring us into an awareness of God and then into a response to God."(6)
- Eugene Peterson
When we begin to associate things we love and things we find beautiful with God,
we begin to love him more. When you think about it, you will realize how natural this is.
What, in your life, can you begin to associate with God?
What do you find beautiful?
What do you love?
When you find yourself enjoying beauty, try opening your eyes to the holy.


Notes:
(1) Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983), 252.
(2) Karl Rahner, and Herbert Vorgrimler, Theological Dictionary, ed. Cornelius Ernst, trans. Richard Strachan (New York: Herder and Herder, 1965), 196.
(3) Oswald Chambers, "February 10: Is Your Imagination of God Starved?" in My Utmost for His Highest.
(4) Ibid., "February 11: Is Your Hope in God Faint and Dying?"
(5) Eugene Peterson, Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer (New York: HarperCollins, 1989), 72.
(6) Ibid., 78.
 

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