By Whitney Woollard
Life spiraled increasingly into chaos the moment I set out to write this article. I helped with unplanned classes, struggled with migraines, sifted through significant opportunities for my husband, woke up to a neighbor’s house fire, witnessed the loss of life, caught a case of the flu, and went on a family trip. Needless to say, enjoying God’s beauty wasn’t on the top of my “to-do” list. I found myself thinking, “Who could justify devoting time to beauty when things are this chaotic?”
Through the chaos I’ve discovered that Christians of all people can (and must!) devote time to beauty because our God is a beautiful God. We have been claimed by the loveliest Being ever to exist. Nothing in heaven or on earth or beneath the earth compares with the beauty of our God. Thus, it’s our delightful duty to regularly raise our vision above the chaos of this world to behold the beauty of our Lord.
VIEWING CHRIST’S BEAUTY IN THE MIDST OF THE CHAOS
Here’s the bottom line—there’s never going to be a convenient time for beauty. If you wait for the ever-elusive “perfect moment” to meditate on Christ’s beauty it will never happen. The truth is that you will behold the beauty of Christ when, and only when, you believe it matters enough to do so.
Scripture reveals that those who take time to behold Christ’s beauty do so, not because their schedules allow for it, but because there’s a gnawing sense within them that it matters. They encounter chaos in a fallen world and inherently know it isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. This tension creates a longing to be in the presence of God, viewing His beauty, that they might experience relief from life’s pressures. As they bask in the beauty of the resplendent One, they are re-fueled for life and re-invigorated for mission.
Consider David in Psalm 27. The specific evil that occasioned this psalm is up for debate, but it’s universally accepted that King David is in a tumultuous situation. He speaks of evildoers assailing him (27:2), an army encamping against him (27:3), war rising up (27:3), multitudes of enemies surrounding him (27:6), his own parents forsaking him (27:10), and false testimony being brought against him (27:12). David is experiencing intense pressure from every side.
What does a man in the throes of chaos do? He does the one thing he believes matters most to the well being of his soul—he cries out for a fresh vision of God’s beauty. His words in Psalm 27:4 (emphasis added) pierce my cluttered soul,
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
From the overflow of his God-entranced worldview David directs his focus towards beauty. He asks to gaze upon Yahweh’s beauty, knowing that in Yahweh’s glorious presence he would find something greater than the greatness of his circumstances. Out of everything Israel’s mighty king could do to procure peace for his soul, he sought out that which he believe would best refuel him for what lied ahead—gazing upon God’s beauty.
SHOULDN’T CHRIST’S BEAUTY MATTER MORE TO ME THAN THIS?
Chaos has an interesting way of exposing our truest beliefs. We may say we value something in life but when pressed hard enough we give ourselves to those things that we most value; those things we believe give us the greatest payoff. Even at our busiest, we manage to find (or make) time for what needs to be done on our “to do” lists: We grocery shop, feed the kids, do the laundry, go on dates, write sermons, meet deadlines at work, update twitter accounts, grab coffee with a congregation member, or fix up the house.
The good news is that affections are like a muscle; they grow and develop as we exercise them.
As a matter of fact, even during my recent chaotic season (when I allowed beauty to slip) I somehow “found the time” to finish out the season of a TV show I had been watching. I made time for it because I sought the relief it offered me in the midst of a busy stretch. Unfortunately, it exposed a distorted belief system. I believed thirty mind-numbing minutes of television could give me greater rest and refreshment than time in God’s beautiful presence.
It follows then that our commitment to God’s beauty is not primarily an issue of time; it’s an issue of belief and affection. You and I abandon devotion to God’s beauty because deep down we don’t believe it matters as much as everything else. Something inside of us believes unloading the dishwasher before the kids wake up or replying to emails before bedtime has a greater payoff than taking ten minutes to behold Christ.
What we don’t realize is that taking time to bask in God’s beauty will actually empower us to re-enter the chaos and approach these tasks with fresh vigor. A few moments gazing upon the LORD’s beauty will energize our affections for him and others, thus helping us better love and serve those God has entrusted to our care. It has a circular nature to it. The chaos drives us into the presence of God to rest in his beauty which in turn re-fuels us to enter back into the chaos and live missionally.
Considering the vital role God’s beauty plays in all of life and mission, many of you may be wondering why you don’t value beholding Christ’s beauty more greatly. It’s a legitimate question I’ve wrestled with during this season. Could it be that our affections follow our practices? If we never spend time gazing upon the beauty of God, we will never develop a taste for his beauty.
Many of our lifestyles (running chaotically from task to task) have stifled any appetite for beauty. We need to jumpstart these affections by choosing to practice godly habits that put us in a posture to savor Christ’s beauty. The good news is that affections are like a muscle; they grow and develop as we exercise them. Start regularly practicing small ways to behold Christ’s beauty and you will grow to crave a glorious vision of him more often.
7 RIDICULOUSLY SIMPLE WAYS TO INCORPORATE BEAUTY INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE:
- Wake up earlier to read and meditate on God’s Word ( 19:7-10) – Enjoy God’s beauty in His Word before the chaos begins. Directing your heart towards Jesus first thing in the morning enables you to control the chaos instead of the chaos controlling you.
- Rehearse the gospel to yourself throughout the day ( 2:1-10) – Periodically stop and reflect upon the gospel. Allow its beauty to put the smaller matters of life into perspective.
- Go for a walk and admire God’s handiwork ( 19:1-6) – Set aside fifteen minutes (alone or with your children) to take in the beauty of God’s world.
- Discuss God’s beauty over a meal ( 6:6-7) – Make it a point to talk to those around you about God. Ask them what they find most lovely about Him.
- Worship through song with your children ( 3:16) – Few things are quite as delightful as watching children sing about Jesus. Doing informal worship is an easy but rewarding way to incorporate beauty into the mundane.
- Switch out one segment of “screen time” for gazing upon God’s beauty ( 27:4) – Make a habit of enjoying God’s beauty before you check your email, twitter, pinterest, facebook, etc. Or, push back your nightly “unwinding” TV time until you’ve savored Christ’s beauty for a few moments.
- Meditate upon the wonders of Christ as you go to sleep ( 63:5-6) – Take time at night to think about Jesus. Meditate on His perfections, His character, and His redemptive work. Allow Christ to be the last thing on your mind at the end of the day.
This week consider incorporating one of the above suggestions into your daily routine. Don’t wait for the “perfect time” to pursue beauty – it doesn’t exist! Instead, create little pockets of calm in the midst of the chaos by lifting your vision above all the distractions and beholding the beauty of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As you do you will experience a fresh sense of purpose for tasks and energy for mission that all the finished to-do lists in the world can’t offer you.