How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Every one of us are uniquely drawn to and captivated by the beauty around us, giving ourselves, our hearts, to that which we find beautiful.
> The captivating beauty of that person…if only….
> The captivating beauty of that thing I’ve always wanted….if only…
Now for a moment let’s get deeper than the shallowness of culture’s definition of beauty. Le’s get beyond mere (and fleeting) external appearance of a beautiful person or object. Let’s get to the heart of beauty. That quality, that character, that makes our heart skip a beat; catches our breath short; sends butterflies into our bellies.
> The captivating beauty of the job I really want…if only….
> The captivating beauty of this relationship….if only…
> The captivating beauty of my kids….if only…
> The captivating beauty of a better bank account….if only…
> The captivating beauty of a public accolades….if only…
> The captivating beauty of a better morality….if only…
> The captivating beauty of retirement….if only
Now lets go one level deeper, into the things we don’t realize we find beautiful, but we obsess over and seek all the same, often with even more passion than the others. These are the things of “vile beauty” that steal our hearts and our passions; rob us of our resources and leave us wrecked on the floor:
> The captivating beauty of what I use to cope with the pain and horror of life, of this relationship, of this health, of these memories…so I turn to the only thing that seems to distract me from reality. Yes, I hate it, but sometimes it’s my only friend…if only I could face reality….
> The captivating beauty of repulsive arrogance. I am so insecure and so afraid, so I perpetually elevate myself over others, criticize those that are different than me and belittle (especially those I love) so that I can, for a moment, feel like I’m ok, even through I know that I’m a fraud….if only I could believe that my value is intact in the person of Christ…
> The captivating beauty of anxiety. I am so terrified of what might be, and so I return to the god of anxiety, performing mental gymnastics as I try to play out every scenario that would result in future-destruction and how I have been abandoned by God and everybody else…I re-write the end of Psalm 23 — “surely goodness and mercy will (abandon) me all the days of my life.”. …if only I could trust in the everlasting love and goodness of God for me personally…
> The captivating beauty of my despicable sins…I hatefully obsess over my brokenness, what I have done (and maybe continue to do)…I hate it, and hate myself for it. I feel like I will never be healed and perpetually wallow in my filth…if only…then I wouldn’t need so much grace.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
I know that the above is an over-simplification (i.e. – anxiety strugglers often have genetic, chemical and physiological roadblocks as well). But the spiritual issue at hand is this: What captures your heart? What do you dream of, dwell on, obsess over, get immersed into and lost within? To be honest…that “beautiful object” we all worship is simply this: me. Like Narcissus in Greek Mythology, I am captured by my own self, and have been led into the dark abyss of isolating self-worship.
This is where the Gospel is such unexpected hope. When we diminish “sin” to a list of behaviors, we miss the whole point and make salvation a transaction (I will trade my badness with Jesus’ righteousness). Even though that’s correct (Paul uses financial terminology like “count it all pure joy” and the often-used word “redemption”), the true heart beneath our Hope isn’t about worship…and we worship that which we find beautiful. The Gospel invitation is to have the Lord open our eyes to TRUE BEAUTY: HIMSELF. I have to be shown that I am settling for such a lesser beauty, and that the BrideGroom himself, Jesus, is running down the wedding aisle to capture me; my loves, attention, affections and heart.
As Thomas Chalmers magnificently wrote, what we need is the “Expulsive Power of a new Affection”. Because, in reality, True Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder. True Beauty, which makes my heart skip a beat and catches my breath short, is objectively and gloriously in the Person of Jesus, revealed by the Holy Spirit and solidified by our Heavenly Father.
And as my eyes slowly get turned away from myself, I begin to realize that I am actually more beautiful than I even knew. Being made in the image of God, being re-made in a new birth, and being dressed in Jesus’ robe of Righteousness, I am His precious, his beloved, his bride, his child. When Jesus died the ugliest of deaths, he beautified his brothers and sisters with his glory. I am now beautiful in the depths of my soul because I am His, and nothing can remove or even diminish this. Now, to begin to be less captivated by my own Beauty and by the other beauties in this world, I need to fall more deeply in love with the One in whose image I’ve been made, the One whose beauty if reflected in all of creation, the One who is Beauty itself.