Spirituality and Beauty

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

This morning in the Sunday School class I teach we had an interesting discussion on spirituality.  One of the points I made during class was that perhaps the best indicator we have that we are growing spiritually is love.  If we are not loving God and others more we are not growing—our spirituality is lacking.

Last night while I was looking at Michael Abbate’s book, Gardening Eden, I noticed that he offers another indicator—one I find very fascinating.  Abbate writes: “Here is a barometer for us to monitor in ourselves: the extent to which we can recognize and appreciate beauty in our lives may indicate the condition of our spiritual walk with the Creator.  The closer we are walking with the Creator, the more beauty we will see in life.”  He notes that many people fail to see the beauty around them.  The beauty gets overlooked.  He says “It’s as if we have to be forced to remove the scales of materialism and entertainment from our eyes so that we can see the beauty in God’s universe, the beauty intended to fill us with joy, rest, and inspiration.”

I’m not sure that I’ve thought of the ability to see beauty as an indicator of spirituality before but it does make sense.  If God is the author of beauty, as I believe He is, then it would stand to reason that those who are closest to Him would be most aware of the beauty He has created.  They would have “eyes to see and ears to hear” that others of us might not.

I find myself wondering whether the awareness of beauty draws one closer to God or is it that those who are close to God are drawn to the beauty?  I know from  personal experience that when I behold the beauty of God’s Creation that I do feel or sense His presence in a powerful way.  So maybe it is the beauty of Creation that draws us closer to God and helps us to grow spiritually.  But then again, perhaps it is because my heart is already attuned to God that I am able to recognize in the beauty around me the presence of God.  Here, too, I know from experience that some people are not affected by beauty in the same way I am.  Some see the same sunsets, rainbows or flowers I do and are not moved at all.

In the end I can’t decide which is more accurate but I do think Abbate is on to something here.  There is, indeed, a connection between one’s ability to see and enjoy beauty and his or her nearness to God.  And since I don’t know which one comes first (kind of like I’m still unsure whether it is the chicken or the egg) I think I’ll just pursue both.  I will spend as much time as I can in the presence of beauty, for it draws me closer to God, and I will at the same time do all I can to walk closer to God so that I might be able to see even more beauty.  That sounds like a win-win approach to me.


(The images above were taken on my trip to Hawaii in April.)