Archives for September 2019

The Intolerable Longing of Beauty

This surprising, pleasing world is so full of truth, goodness, and beauty.
beauty
Simply to step outside is to be drawn to the idea of a true, good, and beautiful Creator.
Sunlight stirring up the scent of pine trees.
A pang of joy in the sound of brief birdsong.
Creation is a gift, and in pausing to contemplate the gift, we sense the presence of the Giver.
truth
Beauty pulls our hearts straight toward God.
Herein lies a problem.
Beauty stirs up in us a remembrance of how things were, once upon a time.
goodness
A painful contrast to the way things are now.
Beauty awakens a pain in our hearts.
A pain that, often, we do not quite understand.
We do not understand why the sight of beauty produces a tightness in our chest,
a lump in our throat,
a deep desire to turn aside and weep.
longing
We do not understand why the sight of beauty produces a deep discontent with the world all around.
Sometimes this almost unbearable longing causes us to turn away, to shut ourselves off from this feeling we do not quite understand.
Beauty awakened such intolerable longing that people often shut their eyes to it, unaware that the longing was the greatest treasure that they had, their very lifeline, uniting the country of their lost innocence with the heavenly country for which their sails were set. ~ Elizabeth Goudge
This intolerable longing is our tether to what will be again someday. It is what keeps our whole selves aimed toward our telos, our ultimate goal, a vision of heaven and earth made new again.
This longing is what brings us back again and again to this Jesus-path toward restoration and renewal.
intolerable longing
This longing is what keeps our hearts awake to the very presence of the Creator who will once again craft all things into a work of beauty.
Even us.
It will be a lasting beauty, this time, unmarred by the ugly that currently plays a jarring counterpoint all through our world.
longing
Don’t shut your eyes to the beauty of this world.
Be still, rather, with the intolerable longing it awakens in you.
Then pray for the return of the Giver who will make all things new.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: photographs of light through trees, mountains, and rapids by Kirk Sewell; all other photographs copyright Made Sacred 2019

The Problem of Pleasure

We often speak of the problem of pain.
problem of pain
This world is so broken and full of hurt.
problem of pain
How do we reconcile an all-loving, all-powerful God with the reality of the suffering that occurs all around us all the time?
I, myself, have written of this quite often in this space over the years.
Yet there is another problem.
One we don’t speak of nearly as often, if at all.
The problem of pleasure.
problem of pleasure
This world is so astonishing, so beautiful.
How do we reconcile the possibility of the unreality of God with the truth, goodness, and beauty that occurs all around us all the time?
problem of pleasure
This world.
This surprising, pleasing world.
problem of pleasure
A sky that can be so blue it causes your chest to tighten with longing and then puts on an incredible show of brilliant colors. Twice. Every day.
Creatures like the narwhal that make us laugh and creatures like the bald eagle in flight that make us catch our breath.
Procreation, the continuation of our species, that brings with it an ecstasy that sets the nerves aflame.
Apples that nourish our bodies. With a crisp, sweet, juicy taste. With a brilliant color that is lovely to look at. With a smell that delights.
An all-loving, all-powerful God who created this world to be good before it became broken through sin seems a reasonable explanation for why this world contains so much pleasure.
problem of pleasure
Moments of pleasure are the remnants washed ashore from a shipwreck, bits of paradise extended through time. ~ G. K. Chesterton
These moments are pieces of the world as it was created to be, scattered around to stir up in our hearts a longing for Beauty, to focus our hearts on Truth, to remind our hearts of the Goodness that one day will fill the earth completely again.
Things on this earth, from the experience of joy to the touch of the softest kitten fur, still bear traces of their original state. They are shining clues into the true nature of creation, as it was originally created to exist.
If there is no Creator, if there is no powerful God of love, how do we explain the problem of pleasure?
problem of pleasure
I know how I explain this existence of pleasure in our universe.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the truth, goodness, and beauty that occur all around us all the time do, after all, point toward the reality of an all-loving, all-powerful God.
Just perhaps.

 

To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: all photographs are copyright Made Sacred 2019