At my precious mom's funeral, one of my brothers eulogized her ability to always "look for the beauty." As he shared, memories of the hours I spent driving my mom through Maine, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee flooded my mind. Often she would point out patches of wildflowers, unique cloud formations, and patterns in sedimentary rock formations along the highway. She particularly loved open fields of freshly cultivated soil. Even as her eyesight began to diminish, she still had this uncanny knack of spotting beauty.
The more I reflected on that habit in her life, it made sense then why she often seemed to be lost in thought as she sat on the rocks at Pemaquid Point in Bristol, Maine. Captivated by the stunning beauty of this oceanic view, her response was usually deep sighs followed by sacred silence. I believe those moments were a divinely ordered cease-fire in her internal battle with dementia.
Perhaps that is why my wife and I spent a few days after the funeral visiting a number of Tennessee State Parks. I took many pictures on those trips, affectionately calling it our "Memorial Look for the Beauty Tour."
However, as thoughts about returning to work encroached upon the bliss of this once boundless mental territory, I began to sense a heaviness, a dread of facing the world that I know had not waited for me to process my grief. Life went on without me and the thought of trying to catch up was both wearying and oppressive.
As I brought my anxiety to God in prayer, I sensed a whispered exhortation, sweet counsel found in my mother's way of life. "Look for the beauty."
In 1848, English author and clergyman Charles Kingsley wrote, "Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful. Beauty is God’s hand-writing - a wayside sacrament; welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower, and thank for it Him, the fountain of all loveliness, and drink it in, simply and earnestly, with all your eyes; it is a charmed draught, a cup of blessing."
The inkwell of God's hand-writing is His beauty. The Psalmist exclaimed, "Breathtaking brilliance and awe-inspiring majesty radiate from his shining presence. His stunning beauty overwhelms all who come before him" [96:6 TPT]. The Message paraphrase adds, "a powerful beauty sets him apart." Indeed, God is "the fountain of all loveliness."
That winsome beauty inspired King David to declare, "One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple" [Psalm 27:4 NASB]. Other translations express his intent to simply, "gaze upon the beauty [the delightful loveliness and majestic grandeur] of the Lord..." [AMP]. "I’ll contemplate his beauty;" [MSG], "delighting in the Lord's perfections" [NLT]. THAT is how I want to honor my mom's legacy: looking for the beauty, God's hand-writing, in all of my circumstances.
I can testify that during these days since her passing, this intentional practice has been a divine life-line thrown to me when I find myself swirling in the depths of murky grief. I am experiencing grace to posture myself with the Psalmist's face-set-as-flint declaration, “My heart is fixed,” [Psalm 57:7] “I WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” [Psalm 27:13 NIV caps mine].
And when I have allowed myself to get sucked into the vortex of negativity and that once joyful intentionality gets displaced by a snarky, "that mindset is pithy and unrealistic," my Peter-sinking-in-the-water prayer has been, "Show me the beauty in this." Let me again testify, God has been faithful to rescue.
Habakkuk declared, “Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive fails and the fields produce no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will [choose to] rejoice in the Lord; I will [choose to] shout in exultation in the [victorious] God of my salvation! The Lord God is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet and makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]” [3:17-19 AMP]. We can rest in the assurance of the kind intention of God's will knowing that, “The Lord is [unwaveringly] righteous in all His ways and gracious and kind in all His works” [Psalm 145:17 AMP]. That's why, precious one, if you are not able to see the beauty right now, you can simply ask with the assurance that God will, indeed, show you.
So may I pass the blessing of my mom's legacy on to you, beloved? As you go to work... look for the beauty. As you take care of household responsibilities... look for the beauty. As you relate with loved ones... look for the beauty. As you interact with co-workers... look for the beauty. And even as you run your errands... look for the beauty. Participate in and partake of this wayside sacrament. Welcome beauty and thank Him, the fountain of all loveliness, for it. Drink it in, simply and earnestly, with all your eyes.
One final thought. Upon reflection, I am quite mindful of the beauty I would have missed had my mom not pointed it out to me. In child-like wonder, she couldn't help but voice what she saw. My prayer, for me and for all of us is this: May we be quick to look for the beauty and even quicker to point others toward the "Fountain of all Loveliness." Thanks, mom.
With simplicity, Jared Anderson expresses that spiritual posture in his song, The Beauty of the Lord. Why not pause and respond to this blog by taking a listen now?