Monday, January 21, 2013

Day 20 - What is Beauty?

There are some things that most of us innately understand or recognize, but would have a hard time defining. Beauty is one of those things.

The dictionary definition for "beauty" is therefore understandably complex: "Beauty is the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

I think there are several key words we can associate with beauty. Several of them are found in the above definition: quality, intense pleasure, deep satisfaction, meaning. Other key words might include fervent desire, passionate longing, profound admiration (these are all stimulated in "the eyes of the beholder" when something of beauty is beheld).

For most guys, mention the word "beautiful" and the image of a very attractive woman comes to mind. (My wife, for instance!) But even we guys know that this kind of beauty is "skin-deep"; you can see a woman who arouses longing because of her physical attributes, then discover that in reality she is a blithering idiot (or at least a person of very poor character), and the flower fades, as it were. (NOT my wife, for instance!)

Such beauty, says Scripture is "fleeting" ... whilst "a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (Prov. 31:30).

One of the things that has always intrigued me about God is the liberality with which Scripture describes Him as beautiful. For instance:
Psalm 27:4
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
Psalm 50:2
From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
Psalm 90:17
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us ...
Scripture shares the truth that our God is perfect in beauty. All the key words the dictionary uses apply: quality, pleasure, satisfaction, meaning. And, I am discovering that my other key words — desire, longing, admiration — also apply perfectly. As the King James translation (itself hauntingly beautiful at times) puts it:
Psalm 42:1
As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
A "hart," of course, we know as a deer. The image is of a deer being chased through the forest by the hunter's foxes. It is desperately thirsty, and finally eluding its tormentors, comes upon a crystal-clear, cool, pure stream. The intense desire of that thirsty animal for refreshment is an image of the Psalmist's intense desire and longing for his perfectly beautiful God.

When you are so incredibly thirsty, such a drink is both an embrace of the powerful longing, and an ecstatic fulfillment of that longing, achieved all in the same moment of time. Perfect beauty!

Too often I find my spiritual life becoming perfunctory or dutiful. God, source of all true beauty, restore unto me the joy of my salvation, the intensity of my passion and longing for Your living water!

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