Beauty-craving

Heads up! This post was published about 14 years ago.

In a post a while back I said I would write about what I called “an old-new foundation for living as creative artists in the Kingdom”.  I guess this post counts as one installment in that (slightly stretched out) series.

When I was on the recent missions trip to Arrowhead Bible Camp, I was again reminded of how beautiful parts of Pennsylvania are.  Here are a few pictures, which as usual do no justice whatsoever to the real experience of seeing a patchwork quilt of tree-colors warming a mountainside on a crisp autumn day.  It was breathtaking.

The trees were just beginning to turn when we were there:

These are hay bales in a field across from camp (I love the lines in this photo):

Beauty does something to us.  I can’t put my finger on it, but it seems to be closely connected to experiences of joy and transcendence.  It somehow yanks us from our musty, ingrown drudgery out into the wide-open spaces of joyful wonder.  We’ve all felt it somewhere, sometime; and once we’ve felt our reaction to beauty, we want to experience it again.  It’s fleeting, though–rushing at us in unexpected places, but too often just out of reach when we seek it or expect it.  Beauty doesn’t arrive on demand, and our pace of life leaves us with no time or patience to wait for it.

In 21st-century USAmerican culture, perhaps more than ever before, people are starving for the experience of beauty and transcendence, turning to every simulation they can find.  Too many people experience nature on the Discovery Channel, intimacy through porn videos, art at the poster store in the mall, and spirituality in the self-help aisle. (For you philosophers out there, think simulacra.) I’m convinced that many of our addictions are rooted in a misplaced search for escape, transcendence, beauty, or whatever–trying to feel something real, or occasionally, just to feel something other.

This is one of several reasons why the Church and the world need creative arts ministry so desperately.  I am convinced that our human longings for joy, transcendence, beauty, and freedom are signposts that evidence our need for God and will only ever be fully satisfied by God.  As the Church, we come alongside people who are consumed and driven by their deep, unmet longings and we point them to God.  We attempt to show them tiny but faithful glimmers of God’s unimaginable beauty and sufficiency through story, music, art, poetry, film, drama, dance—every form we can imagine, every sense we can experience, always seeking new cracks through which we can peer.  Sometimes we are just plain awful at it, and at other times we are astounded by the beauty of God’s glory inhabiting our little efforts (check out Annie Dillard’s “An Expedition to the Pole”).

These visceral ways of communicating often slip unnoticed though people’s walls and barriers, and to their surprise, transform a brief moment into a sacred space where they experience God. If just one person sees a ray of God’s beauty shining through and finds her or his deep longings met, then we have ministered well.

2 thoughts on “Beauty-craving

  1. “This is one of several reasons why the Church and the world need creative arts ministry so desperately. I am convinced that our human longings for joy, transcendence, beauty, and freedom are signposts that evidence our need for God and will only ever be fully satisfied by him.”

    Well put my friend. And what an incredible challenge. 🙂

  2. I want to apologize for never getting past the photos on this blog. great post, thanks for the good thinking. I think you’re on to something with our misplaced search for beauty.

    here’s another question that I got stuck with from another creative arts ministry type person… What mandate does our being created in the image of a Creator-God put on us to create? are we cut from the same creative cloth? I mean, creation beyond just being fruitful and multiplying (which we seem to have no problem with).

    Rob Bell in the “Open” Nooma, suggests that God’s creation was intentionally half finished, inviting us and all of creation to participate in the ongoing, unfolding of God’s creation.

    keep up the posting! (its not like you’re busy with advent or anything. heh)

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