We’re almost done! This is the home stretch of the series. After this, there are three more posts in this series on beauty. Then maybe a summary-conclusion article. Last time, we talked about what it looks like to contemplate Beauty. Here, we ask why we contemplate it and what the implications of this answer are. So, why do we contemplate Beauty?
So we can enjoy it to the fullest.
Our text says that God’s gift to man is the ability and call to enjoy and take pleasure in all things, even our vain toiling and strivings of heart. After contemplation, there comes the time when we must engage with what we have contemplated. Even in Christianity, our theological study and discovery of who God is is not complete until actually close the Bible, look up, and enjoy this revealed God. But how? What does this enjoyment look like? Well, as I’ve thought about it, I’ve broken down enjoyment into four different stages. To enjoy Beauty, we Praise it, Participate in it, Proclaim it, and Produce more beauty. Let’s break this down:
First, we praise the beautiful things.
This seems fairly simple at first, but it has a deeper level to it. In its external form, praising the beauty of something is as simple as calling it beautiful. But what about nature? Or art? Or a book? or poem? Perhaps the original artist is dead or not available for you to say to them, “Hey, that’s beautiful.” Those cases help show us that “praise” goes deeper than mere words. “Praise”, more accurately, is a turning of affections toward the object of the beauty before you. It’s acknowledging beauty at the deepest part of who you are. Now, don’t worry. I’m distinguishing between the affections we turn towards these things and the affections we have for God. Those that have been changed by God to see His Beauty have had their deepest affections changed so that God is highest in those affections. But it’s okay to have an affection for things that God loves and has affections for. Having affection for His Church, His people, your family, and Beauty (even the Beauty of quote-unquote “non-religious” things) is completely in line with someone who has been changed by God to see Him as most beautiful. The implications of this more accurate idea of “praising” are huge. First, it means that you can be “praising” with your lips and not actually be praising. It also means that you can be praising something fully, accurately, and appropriately without ever having uttered a word. Imagine staring at a beautiful piece of art. It’s just you and the art while everything else fades away, and every distraction disappears. In that moment, as your affection swells for this thing of Beauty, you are calling it beautiful – you are praising.
In the next few days we’ll discuss what it looks like to Participate in Beauty. This will be a much longer, more developed idea. And my favorite way of enjoying Beauty. So until then…
Here are the manuscript and lecture that this series is based off of.