Week 25: Behold the Beauty
Song for June. Listen => See Joy, Be Joy (on finding joy in all circumstances)
Behold the beauty. Do you see it?
As leaders, our worldviews shape our decisions. Once our worldviews widen to acknowledge the beauty all around us– in people, in nature and in ourselves– we are changed. We radiate hope. We discover a gentleness of spirit. We become ready to celebrate beauty with others, which advances the good.
Can you see it in the people around you? There is beauty in a stranger’s smile as she holds the door open, inviting us to walk through. It is in hospitality with good friends. In our husband’s or wife’s hug in the wake of forgiveness. It envelops our last goodbye to our dying Dad. We can see it in the side-by-side stroll with our adult son as he describes his fiancee with wonder and love. It’s in the homeless man’s act of love and ministry to a drunk on the sidewalk. On a stroll through a Farmer’s Market in springtime, we see it. In the crowds in Central Park on a sunny summer Saturday, we see it. Beauty is all around us.
Can you see it in nature? I remember when I first set eyes on the Grand Canyon from the south rim. I was hush-struck. There is beauty in the cut of a canoe as it glides through quiet water on a starry, starry night. It’s in the outline of the majestic Himalayas, standing tall in the sky high above. It’s in the crunch of snowy trails in Minnesota in February. It’s in the cry of a coyote, the leap of a deer, the dart of a fox, the splash of a trout, the yodel of a loon.
Can you see it in yourself? There is beauty in the love we feel when we look upon our spouse and children. It’s in the grace we experience when we finally make amends. It’s in the peace we encounter in daily prayer. It’s in the calm clarity that finally comes after a long struggle with confusion in our leadership roles. It’s in the hope that comes when we realize that all of our time on this earth is just the beginning– an infinite fraction of eternal life in heaven with God.
Beauty is in woundedness. Divine beauty shines at the crossroads of truth and goodness. We can see it even– especially– in the midst of human brokenness. The Irish poet John O’Donohue once said:
“The beauty that emerges from woundedness is a beauty infused with feeling; a beauty different from the beauty of landscape and the cold perfect form. This is a beauty that has suffered its way through the ache of desolation until the words or music emerged to equal the hunger and desperation at its heart.”
Have you ever witnessed broken beauty such as this? Have you ever been moved to step towards such human brokenness, perhaps to bring dignity, protection, help and healing? Good leader, broken beauty begs a love-response.
Beauty is in the sacred ordinary. Gerard Manley Hopkins captured it well in his poem Pied Beauty:
Glory be to God for dappled things–
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced– fold, fallow and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Beauty is in our God-carriers. These are the people in our lives, beautiful themselves, who point us to the beauty in plain sight. God-carriers are leaders; they are the ones that lead us to a better place. My Dad was a God-carrier. He showered me with his integrity and love until the day he died. He gave me the beauty of his laughter, his love of family and his servant’s heart. He taught me to love nature; to camp, to walk in the woods, to learn the names of the trees and the birds.
Beautiful inside and out, my wife Pageen is a God-carrier. From the moment of our first kiss to the moment I type these words, her love has nourished my hungry heart. Her Irish spark captivates me. And she teaches. Early on, she taught me to honor my faith by weekly church attendance. She taught me that my relationship with God would never sustain if I were to see it as just one of many spokes on my wheel of priorities. It had to be the central thing, the hub. Thirty-seven years on, she still teaches me every day. What a gift marital love is, especially as it yields the miracle of children. Mary Catherine and Jack have been God-carriers for Pageen and me from the moment of their births, to their first steps, all the way into their creative adult lives.
My Aunt Helen, still with us at ninety years young, is a God-carrier. She loved and prayed me through every struggle of my life. She remains to this day my closest spiritual advisor. There are others: the priest who once challenged me to join the board of a troubled inner-city charity. The African American business leader who took me aside on a retreat and said, “It’s good you talk the talk. When you step out of here, will you walk the walk?” My siblings are God-carriers, each in their own way. And then there are my closest friends, who hold me accountable each week to live out the best version of myself.
These are just a few of the God-carriers who have blessed my life. Who are yours? Seek them out. They will help you to see, through new eyes, the beauty within and around you. At our best, each of us is both teacher and student; leader and follower; a God-carrier and a God-receiver. Tutu liked to quote an old African saying: “A person is a person through other persons.” Beauty exists in our relationship to other people and things. When we behold the beauty we become more interconnected, more vulnerable, more undefended, more alive. To see beauty is to hope. With hope, we sense joy. With joy we sense possibility– which draws us into the world to become servant leaders. And so we become keepers of the beauty– God-carriers for others.
Behold the beauty. We are all participants in the miraculous music of life, with God interwoven. It’s God who has placed us in His grand orchestra; it’s He who has given us our instrument and who calls us to play our notes. When we follow God’s baton, our contributions weave together with those of others to create a symphony of beauty that echoes through our souls.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13
I hope when you look in the mirror this week you will see your own interior beauty smiling back at you!
P.S.: This poem acknowledges that to move beyond ourselves, to serve others, we must first move the stone of our false self out of the way. With God’s help, of course.
TURN OVER GENTLE
Turn over gentle now, gentle that loam
Clay covers my soul; it traps me alone
Underneath it, I’ve nursed fears on my own
So pull up my sin, Lord; help me atone
Meager my fruits are; You know how I’ve strayed
In mulch of my poverty, plant me Your way
Set me in straight, well-rooted I pray
To sun-guide me upward — to grow day by day
Then transplant me humble into the need
Remind me the cross, where Jesus did bleed
Help me cast gentle now, gentle your seed
For only by You might each plant succeed
As rainfall and sunshine fall soft from above,
May furrow by furrow I seed with Your love
Previous Week’s Letters: