Beauty is where we find it
Have you ever thought about the many ways we use a certain word?
Take the word, “love,” for instance. In the space of 24 hours,I’ve found myself saying I love peanut butter. I love the way you are wearing your hair. And singing to myself — no one else really wants to hear me sing — “I love you, Lord.”
Could that one little four-letter word really carry the weight of all of those different meanings, and many more?
And how about the word, “beauty”? It, too, is a many-splendored word. Good ‘ole Merriam-Webster’s primary definition for “beauty” says that it has to do with the “quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” Like so many of our sturdy, broad shouldered English words, “beauty” has many secondary meanings as well. The dictionary adds that it can refer to “the best feature or advantage of something.” As an example, they give the following sentence, “The beauty of keeping cats is that they don’t tie you down.” Clearly the writer of that sentence has never owned cats.
But back to beauty. It seems to me that it’s more important than ever to cultivate a sense of beauty, and to actively seek out beautiful things in our lives. The world is throwing all it’s got at us right now, isn’t it? Let me count the ways, the constant anxiety of a pandemic that just will not abate. The fear for our loved ones, and for our community, as cases keep rising. Fatigued health care workers, businesses just barely hanging on, a vaccine that’s not getting to us as fast as we’d hoped. A political climate that keeps us on edge.
We need beauty as a kind of medicine for the soul – beauty in our God, in people, in the natural world, in music and art and the written word. Keeping our eyes on things which “give pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalt the mind or spirit” can help to counteract all of the ugliness around us.
I think that St. Paul was giving the church at Philippi a reminder about the importance of turning the eyes of our hearts to those things which uplift us when he wrote, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8).
I love this passage so much that I’ve printed it out in a big type size and put it up on the bulletin board in my office. I even outlined the key words – true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing and commendable – in bright colors to draw my eye and my spirit to them. Paul is talking about making sure that what we place before our minds and our hearts is, in essence, beautiful. The alternative – steeping ourselves in hatred, fear, or division – will result in souls that mirror what they take in.
Where have you seen beauty lately?
The sunsets in Farmville have been particularly spectacular recently. I’ve seen pictures of some friends’ new babies – oh, the beauty. How about the beautiful actions of those who tend the ill and sacrifice their own health and welfare for others? As a cat fanatic, I think my four felines each possess their own beauty (except when it’s time to clean the litter box.)
Friends, look for beauty in God’s world. May the Lord help you find it.
REV. SUSIE THOMAS is lead pastor of Farmville United Methodist Church. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.