In worship this week, we listened to and meditated on Psalm 27:4.
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.
The words, “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord,” caught my attention this morning. We are unable to visibly see God. In the Hebrew text, people were afraid to see God, face to face, thinking they would not survive such an encounter. The Israelites were even afraid to see the glow on Moses’ face after he spent time in God’s presence. So how do we gaze on God’s beauty? What does that look like?
The psalmist continued to share his desire to seek out God in the temple. Paul taught that we are the temple (1 Cor. 6:19). That God is inside of us. Furthermore, Paul shared in Colossians that all of creation is in Christ (Col. 1:16-17). Can you imagine the magnitude of this statement and all it implies? God is in us, each one of us, and all of creation, including us, is in Christ.
Bringing in this inclusive perspective of God and allowing it to define beauty actually, reframes the question I asked previously. How do we gaze upon the beauty of the Lord? Where do we see this beauty? Take a moment to look around, right where you are. What do you notice?
I notice an all familiar tree outside my window with birds flitting about from branch to branch. I see a man walk by, bundled against the coolness of a rainy Oregon day. I hear dogs barking in the distance and birds chirping close by. I remember a couple of conversations earlier this week, as friends of mine checked in with me and one another. Earlier this morning, I enjoyed a deep heart conversation shared with another dear friend.
All of these show the beauty of God. Some I see, hear, or experience with my physical senses and some I experience in my heart within relationship with people and in conversation. It is good to notice the beauty held within the ordinary and extraordinary interactions and experiences we all share.
Sometimes, it is pretty easy to notice and appreciate God’s beauty. What about those interactions that are difficult? How about with those I disagree with or who have hurt me or who are just different from me? Can I see beauty in those who are the “other?”
It seems beauty is most evident in the uncomfortable places of life. Pain, love, and beauty are each made richer as we experience the messiness of life lived together. True community is experienced in embracing the things that bring both uniformity, those things that are alike, and uniqueness, where we differ, to shape our world. We see the essence of these words played out in nature and in the people around us. Holding these seemingly distinct opposites together, open the way for beauty, as unity is held within diversity.
This seems like an idealistic notion that is beautiful but potentially impossible. Or is it? What part can I do, can we individually walk out with one another, in accepting and embracing the beauty in one another?
Maybe it is gazing at the beauty of the Lord in each and every person. Recognizing the Imago Dei, image of God, in each one of us. If God is in each person as we see in Genesis 1:26-27 and all creation is in Christ - then God’s beauty is seen in all people. Even in those, I disagree with. So, what makes this so difficult?
It seems that believing myself as loved is key to being able to be open to God and those who are different from me. I’ve come to realize that love, true love, is being believed in, seen, heard, and known. If beauty is seen and experienced in the “other,” then how do I become open to it? Maybe, as I know more of myself being believed in, seen, heard, and known, I will stop fighting for that to happen within my own control and efforts. As the fighting within myself slows, I will be able to see and experience the beauty of God in all the “others” around me. This brings less divisiveness and more grace for myself, God, and those I encounter.
This is hard because we all desire to be accepted and loved yet, fearful of rejection or being seen as less than. This fear of being considered “less than” is actually a shame label we accept for ourselves. Shame causes us to want to hide. We tend to do whatever helps us to feel safe and protected, while still believing this false label. I’ve noticed, both for myself and those I work with, that who we believe God to be and who we believe ourselves to be, matter. We think we are protecting ourselves from pain and rejection but in actuality, we are holding love from God and others at a distance.
I’ve done this. I’ve lived this way. We, probably, all have. There is another way to live, knowing we are deeply and intimately loved by our Creator God. This God believes in us, sees us, hears us, and knows us deeply, more deeply and completely than we know ourselves. This is love and an invitation to live out of this love for ourselves, God, and others.
Our beliefs matter. Will we allow God to readjust the lens we use to see ourselves, God, and those around us? Will we allow God to walk alongside us with the gentleness that defines love while we learn to surrender to our own belovedness? Will we allow God’s definition of love to impact how we see others?
Lord, help us notice your beauty in us, in you, and in those we encounter…
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!