We Are Never Without Beauty

I stepped out my front door this morning and stepped into a veritable work of art. I stepped out for my morning walk and stepped into God’s own gallery.

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The sun was just beginning to peer over the eastern horizon, its earliest light warm and brilliant gold. The clouds that stretched across the sky faded from east to west, from thick to thin, from heavy to light. Each cloud caught the golden rays and reflected them in a fiery swirl of red, orange, and yellow. God himself had mixed up a pastel palette, a work of art that was not quite realistic and not quite abstract. It was, though, absolutely breathtaking. “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee / How great Thou art.”

I stood for a moment and soaked in the scene. I had an urge to wake Aileen and to tell her to step outside with me, for surely such beauty is best shared. I had an urge to grab my camera and race down to the shore of Lake Ontario, for surely such beauty is best captured. But I knew that the best beauty of a sunrise lasts for only a few moments and that by the time I woke Aileen and led her outside, the light would already be fading. And I knew that the best beauty of a sunrise cannot be captured by camera and lens, for even the most high-quality of sensors can only capture a small slice of the scene and only a small portion of the spectrum. And so I stood and enjoyed the beauty for the brief moments it existed, for the brief moments before the sun’s light cooled from gold to white, before it no longer reflected off the clouds, before dawn became day.

So many of life’s pleasures are as fleeting as a sunrise. Yesterday Aileen looked wistfully over her garden and said, “It is already past its peak.” What was planted at the end of May has already given us the best of its beauty even though the calendar shows only August. The flowers that bloomed bright yellow and pure white and brilliant purple have faded and fallen. The leaves that grew vivid and green have become ragged and discolored. Caterpillars have chewed, rabbits have nibbled, sun has scorched. Sunrises, gardens, and so much else all tell the same tale: Time is no friend to beauty.

Yet as we live with opened eyes, we will see that we are most truly never without beauty, if only we will accept its fleeting nature, if only we will cease lamenting the past and look to the present. The sun that rose will set and there will be fresh delights to behold in the evening sky. Even as the wonders of plants and flowers begin to fade, the trees high above the garden will explode with their brilliant fall colors. Snow will fall and coat the ground in a clean and dazzling white. 

We are never without beauty in this world—never without displays of splendor. We are never without beauty because God’s divine fingerprints are impressed on all he has made. We are never without beauty because we live in a world carefully crafted by the one who is himself beautiful, who is himself Beauty.