Beauty: God's creative artistic nature

There was a rainbow stretching across the Columbia River on Friday. It looked like hand-blown glass bridging the shores of Oregon with those of Washington. It was really beautiful.

My daughters are beautiful. No. I mean, really beautiful. They aren’t beautiful in the way of the Kardashian girls. My girls have all their original body parts. They all work-out, stay fit, and eat right. (They did not learn that from me.  Or if they did it was more of a do as I say, not as I do thing).

But what makes them really beautiful is them. The inside of them. Each one is so very creative. They paint, they write, they sew, they cook, they mentor, they encourage, & they are always thinking of ways in which they can serve other people — even their daddy and me. If you knew their hearts the way I do, you’d see their beauty, too.

My son has the most beautiful hair in the whole family. It’s thick and has natural curl. And he’s got beautiful green eyes, with long lashes like his daddy’s. He’s creative, too. Everyday at Colonial Williamsburg, he’s creating one scene after another. He researches and writes and creates. And on the rare occasions when his daddy and I get to see him perform, well, it’s a thing of beauty. We both come away so proud.

I feel that same sort of pride on Friday nights when I sit high up in the stands and watch as my husband and the other coaches stand in allegiance to the flag. I know that my  husband, the history teacher, understands what allegiance means so much better than me. Every single day he wears a bracelet to school — a black bracelet engraved with my father’s name and the date of his death in Vietnam. He says had my father not lost his life in Vietnam, he may never have met me, might not have ever married me. He says he owes my father for the life he gave. That’s such a beautiful and bittersweet thought it makes me weep.

Every Labor Day we have a big reunion at the beach with our good friends the Wrights. We do the same thing every year: we play volleyball, we walk the beach, we eat all our meals together, including the traditional crab boil, and we tell stories. The place we stay is small but it is such a beautiful spot, surrounded by wildflowers in full-bloom.

My neighbor Sarah grows wildflowers in her yard. She’s got one of the most beautiful yards in the neighborhood. She’s mixes manure in the sand and saves the seeds from last season to plant again. It’s a blessing to see all the results of the hard work Sarah puts into her yard. I get to sit on my porch and appreciate it all summer long.

Sarah and her husband are beautiful people. No. I mean physically. Really beautiful. I like it when Ethan hugs me. He hugs me a lot. It makes me feel like I’m one of the beautiful people in the world, too, like Ethan and Sarah. I own a mirror so I know I’m really just an aging lady, but Ethan and Sarah always bring out the beauty in me by the way they love me.

As I sit typing this my daughter Ashley just sent me the following text message: “I was reading about Eleanor Roosevelt and this quote made me think of you: ‘She intended to interest people and bring about discussion. She led by being a catalyst for change and created an environment where followers became leaders as they were drawn into her stories and motivated to act by her vision.'”

That’s beautiful, isn’t it? That a daughter would think that of a mother? Doesn’t matter if it accurately describes me or not — what matters is that when my Ashley looks upon me she sees me, despite all my flaws, as worthy.

God does that, too, you know — sees us through the eyes of beauty.

There’ s an excellent article in Christianity Today by Christine A. Scheller about a woman who spends a great deal of money on art.  Roberta Ahmanson explained that what we adore shapes us :  “We worship dead things, we become dead. We worship the living God, we become alive,” she says. “And one of the attributes of that living God is beauty. Beauty leads us to him. We really cannot live without it.”

Beauty leads us to Him.

I have heard a lot of sermons in my life. A gazillion of them by now. I’ve heard all about the characteristics of God — his wrath, his mercy, his justice, his grace.

I have heard sermons preached in favor of the argument of God as Creator, but nothing about God’s creative, artistic nature.

And I have never, not once, ever heard a sermon about how God is beauty, about how beauty leads us to discover God.

Have you?

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  • Love this post! Loved reading about all the various forms of beauty and then the beauty of God. And I agree “beauty leads us to discover God.”

    I have never heard a sermon about the beauty of God either … but I’ve lived it. And it was discovering his beauty that helped me from drowning during a season of depression a few years ago.
    I was so depressed I wanted to die … I was mad and disappointed with God, other people, the world and my circumstances. (yes, I had bitterness issues) I had major faith/belief/God doubts.

    I’ve always loved being outdoors, so I began “being still” on a bench beside a lake at my local park. I didn’t bring my Bible or anything … I just focused on observing my surroundings and somehow the beauty in nature translated to love and I assumed that was God’s love. Other times, I listened to good music and studied art for the first time. By focusing on beauty in nature, music and art, I found hope again.

    I’m not depressed or mad anymore (well, most days) I still have disappointments, but ongoing focus on finding beauty helps me believe in a God of love. Since I’ve rarely heard this talked about, I thought I was looney, so it’s great to read that others are experiencing the same thing. It gives me encouragement as I wrestle with what to include in a memoir I’m writing about those years.

    Thanks for this!

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Janet: I know parts of your story so I know that when you speak of despair, it’s a despair that I have not yet known, hope to never know. I am thankful that you found enough beauty in creation to lift you, to compel you to hope again.

  • I have not heard a sermon per se, but several authors and teachers have touched on it. John Eldredge in particular has this as a theme in several of his works. And there’s a brilliant talk by Don Miller called “The Gospel: More like a Marriage, less like a Formula” that I downloaded some years ago and still listen to from time to time.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I have read Eldredge and Miller. I am not surprised that writers would be talking about art and creation and the beauty connection to God.
      I’d just like to hear some in-depth preaching on the beauty nature of God. A little less preaching on “us” and “them.”

  • I’ve heard a few such sermons–very few. Actually, I gave one as a lay person over 20 years ago. In retrospect, it was a kind of “before they call, I will answer” kind of moment. My life and death struggles with depression still lay mostly ahead. The Columbia Gorge was God’s ER where my life got saved numerous times. It’s not a question of whether God can be found there or not. When I go into the Creator’s work, I find nothing BUT God there. In a play I wrote and produced as a tribute to casualties and survivors of Vietnam and their families, I ask the question: how in the world can mountains heal? Answer: in the same way clouds, blossoms, sunrises, sunsets, birdcalls, dance, music, poetry, painting do: beauty. Intense beauty.

    It’s no accident that now in Oregon a compassionate and wise group of souls takes severely injured vets (both pshycologically and physically) on rafting trips when they are physically able to go. It’s healing. Life flows from creation back into them. It’s beauty. It’s the breath of God.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      When I go to Creator’s work, I find nothing but God there.

      What a powerful statement and talk about finding the obvious. You’d think we’d go looking for God more in Scripture, Prayer, Poetry, Music, Art, Books. wouldn’t you?

  • Alison

    Loved the post, Karen. Simone Weil was right: there are only two things that can pierce us, one being affliction, the other being beauty. Sometimes, when I feel low, the only things that help are classical music, a trip to the art museum, or to the local conservatory to take in the flowers. Reconnecting with creation definitely eases the burden, since it reconnects me to the Creator.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I’ve interviewed a number of people who talk about how when nothing else healed them, music did. God works through His creation. Beautifully.

  • Karen–

    Haven’t heard a sermon on this–yet–although I run across a lot of wonderful writing about it. The Church Fathers read Genesis in Greek and so were told that God looked at the creation and saw that it was “kalon”–beautiful, perfect, absolutely right, good. for folks with an interest, let me recommend Richard Harries’ book Art and the Beauty of God, and Kathleen Norris’ The Quotidian Mysterieies, where she writes that “the aesthetic sensibility is attuned to the sacramental possibility in all things.” Where beauty is, God is. Thanks for this post.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Greg: I have your Freebird book! So amazing to hear from you here. I am familiar with Norris but not Harries. Will have to check that out.

  • Beautiful! I was sort of looking for a Unicorn or a Leprechaun in there! It almost looks fake! A very magical picture!

  • Yes, actually I have. My pastor is also a musician and very artistic. And as James mentioned, John Eldredge’s writings reflect God’s artistic nature as well.

  • Karen, a very nice post! Such a wonderful reminder of the beauty that is all around us each day. Reading this post not only was enjoyable in and of itself but prompted me to think about the beauty that I am overlooking or taking for granted. Thanks.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Thanks, Jim.

  • Yes, Karen, yes… Behold beauty and be held by God.

    As I’ve been exploring how I experience God and realizing that y hunger for Beauty is a hunger for Him because Beauty is Who He is… even making the ugly beautiful… I’ve been reading this: Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, by John O’donohue ….

    Thank you, Karen… *Thank you*
    All’s grace,
    Ann Voskamp

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Ann: Have not yet read that but am reading Richard Dahlstrom’s soon to be released book, The Colors of Hope by Baker House. Richard, who is a pastor at Bethany Community in Seattle, talks about artisans of hope. I think you are certainly an artisan of hope.Your writings, particularly your latest book — One Thousand Gifts — is bringing moments of beauty to all of us. Thank you.