A couple of years ago, a dear friend gave me a book for my birthday that is filled with photos of Paris—mostly flowers and architecture. (Flowers are 100 percent my thing; maybe it comes with being named after one.) It’s breathtakingly beautiful, and it’s had a home on our living room end table ever since.
I see this book every day, and there’s often a longing inside me to just sit and enjoy the beauty-filled pages. But for some reason I always have something “better” to do. I almost feel guilty about soaking in those stunning images. Why? I’m a very practical person, and taking time to do that doesn’t feel very productive. But finally, a few days ago I grabbed the book, took it out on our deck, and opened the cover.
As I lingered on each page, there was an ache that filled me—a good kind of ache. The colors and lines, the artistry and creativity were almost too much to take in. But I couldn’t pull my eyes away. It was if my soul was being refreshed and delighted to a point that I’m not used to. I was inspired in a way that continual productivity and movement from one thing to the next couldn’t do. And I was catching a glimpse into a beauty that will not be fully known this side of heaven, but that I long to know with everything in me.
Our culture places a high value on getting ahead, on being efficient and productive with our time. There are books upon books and courses upon courses about scheduling, planning, productivity, and continual improvement. There is nothing wrong with being wise with our time and planning and honing our skills. But when that is all there is, we become weary, discouraged, and lifeless.
We weren’t just made for productivity; we were also made for creativity. We were created to gaze upon beauty and drink in the loveliness of God’s creation and what people create as His image-bearers.
I’m certainly no expert in this arena, but as this “gazing upon beauty” has been put more and more upon my heart, three actions have helped me to delight in it for the glory of God.
This might seem simplistic, but it’s the first step in intentionally appreciating beauty. In my house, we have huge windows that face west, giving us a stunning view of the Rocky Mountains. I go about my whole day with them in view, but it’s only when I stop what I’m doing that I can really begin to appreciate just how beautiful they are, and their majesty has a chance to point me back to the greater majesty of their Creator. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Stillness allows us to quiet our hearts and remember the great God we serve.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. (Ps. 145:5)
Ponder is another way of saying “meditate.” In essence, it means to consider something over and over. This takes time and quieting our minds and hearts. In the constant hum of life, this takes deliberate effort. But it’s so worth it.
Pondering the work of God in a flower or mountain or some other aspect of this life glorifies Him and opens our eyes to deeper measures of His goodness and power. It may not seem outwardly productive in the moment, but it is most certainly inwardly productive. Setting aside other tasks to delight in His work is an act of worship. It also expands our own ability to create, which in turn becomes an act of worship. Sitting and thinking deeply about God and His incredible works is eternally worth our while.
As my husband pointed out to me, praise is the most productive thing a human can do, because it fulfills our dual purpose of glorifying and enjoying God. Praise is a natural outflow of gazing upon beauty. Have you ever been struck by the detail of a bird’s feather or enamoured by tiny baby toes? Have you been left in awe over intricate architecture or brought to tears by a beautiful voice? It evokes worship, because that’s what beauty is meant to do. We get so caught up in the daily details and trials of life that we forget to lift our eyes to the lifegiving beauty that is all around us. We forget to praise God, which also refreshes our souls.
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. (Ps. 33:1)
Praise beautifies us. A person who is full of thanksgiving is a delight to be around, aren’t they? We marvel at the continual praise that flows from their lips, even when they are walking through difficult circumstances. And this is only possible because they’ve been delighting themselves in the Lord, choosing to gaze upon Him and His glory.
A friend reminded me of this quote by C.S. Lewis from his book The Weight of Glory:
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
The beauty we behold this side of heaven is just a tiny taste of what awaits us in the presence of Jesus—beauty personified—one day. When that ache comes into our hearts because of the loveliness we are staring at, it reminds us that we have far more to look forward to, and it readies our hearts for a glorious eternity with our Savior.
So, friend, will you join me and sit with beauty today?