We live in a consumeristic world.
We live in a virtual world, where every image we see is air-brushed, lit and positioned to look as attractive as possible…
Those who say the camera never lies have clearly never heard of photo-shop!
I was thinking that in our culture we as so influenced by the media and advertising agencies that we are always in search for the perfect, but it is an illusive search. The world and all that is in it is fallen, somehow we can live our lives chasing a fantasy of the perfect life, the perfect job, the perfect partner, the perfect holiday and the children… and yet we forget that we’re not perfect either.
Our consumerist desire for ‘bespoke’ and our airbrushed unreality leaves people feeling dissatisfied.
Beauty is not about cutting ourselves off from reality in some pseudo-bubble-world for as long as we can keep the illusion going (the more money we have the more we can keep ourselves in a deluded state, but even then we know deep down its not real but actually incredibly empty).
Islam recognises this issue in its philosophy of beauty, which understands that only God is perfect and to try and achieve perfection is in their view idolatrous, that is why art from this culture sometimes has a deliberate mistake in it as a testimony to God’s perfection and human-fallen-ness.
Yet traditionally the Christian understanding of beauty is very different from Islam, where we believe we can see beauty in brokenness. Despite the fall God’s indelible goodness can still shine out of that which is broken.
In fact Jesus often calls us out of what feels beautiful and comfortable to discover a new beauty in a more broken area.
When I was at New Wine I went to a session with Gareth Robinson, a Church planter, and he described about how he and his wife had wonderful Christian gatherings in their conservatory with nice Christians friend on his planting team. Yet then they planted in the estate they felt called to be in, and it went messy with local kids running around and causing havoc and it all went messy. The seminar was called ‘birthing Church-plants’ and his opening remarks were that often birth is messy and costly. Yet many years on have seen many local kids become Christians and have seen Christ impact the estate.
I have worked in youth work and Church leadership for about 20 years and on occasions I have had to pray “Jesus let me see these people/community/group with your eyes and give me your love for them”.
Even gold looks unattractive when it is mined out the rock, but in the purification process its true beauty and value becomes more and more apparent.
Yet when we think of God at work in our own lives, sometimes people have noticed the gifting and potential in us -often deeply buried- within us and yet God and his people have had the wonderful privilege or drawing it out and enjoying and being blessed by us, and us being blessed by being a blessing.
The exciting privilege of partnering with God in his redemptive and sanctifying work in us and in the lives of the people we have come to love.
In fact the harder we look with the eyes of Christ the more we see of God in the most unlikely places, the smudged finger-print of the Spirit of God in the least likely places and the most unlikely people.
Our world tries to sell us counterfeit beauty but yet the beauty really end up appreciating is that which we have invested it, which is so much greater and deeper than superficial beauty that the world has tempted us by.
Often we settle for nice -like the lovely pleasant time Gareth had in his conservatory- but if you asked them would they swap it for the wonders they found in planting a Church amongst the broken and marginalised, I bet they wouldn’t swap! So lets press on for what is declared by the divine to be beautiful.
The greatest beauty we can see is something of heaven, the Kingdom of God, touching earth -or at least our bit of it- and this is a beauty we can participate in.
A beauty that maybe the world can’t always see, unless seen and felt with the eyes and heart of Christ.
And this beauty is investing in that which is eternal.