Oct 31 2020

Walk in Beauty

I have a friend who in all his correspondence with me concludes with the words “walk in beauty.”  I’ve read enough Tony Hillerman novels to know that this is an important phrase in Navajo life.  The words come from a Navajo ceremony called Beautyway.  To walk in beauty means to walk in harmony with all living things, to live in harmony with God, with nature, with others and with self.  There is a lovely Navajo prayer that includes these words: “With beauty before me, may I walk.  With beauty behind me, may I walk.  With beauty below me, may I walk.  With beauty above me, may I walk.  With beauty all around me, may I walk.”  I find these words to be both powerful and instructive.  I happen to believe that we are all challenged to walk in beauty.  It is, however, easier said than done.

Why is living in harmony with all living things so difficult?  Perhaps the Scriptures give us some clues.  If you go back to the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 you see that the introduction of sin in Eden destroyed the harmony God intended for Creation.  That sin was basically humanity’s decision to put the will of self before the will of God.  In one word that sin was pride.  That same pride displayed in the Garden of Eden continues to be manifested in each of our lives.  We all have a tendency to put our will above that of God or that of others.  That pride results in discord.  Where pride raises its ugly head beauty and harmony are always found lacking.

Today many see nature as something to be used, not cherished and preserved.  Sad to say, the same thing can be said for our relationships with others.  Far worse, the same thing can be said for our relationship with our Creator.

I am convinced that until we find harmony with God we will not find harmony with self, others, or nature.  There must be peace in the center before there can be peace beyond.  Unfortunately, a lot of people leave God out of the equation.  To walk in beauty surely we should start with our Maker.

In Psalm 27:4 David says “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord…”   When we focus on the beauty of the Lord everything else falls into place.  We begin to see the true beauty in ourselves.  We begin to see the true beauty in others.  We begin to see the true beauty in nature.  This vision is what enables us to “walk in beauty” and to live our lives in peace and harmony.

I realize that I may not be doing justice to the Navajo concept of walking in beauty but this is how I understand the concept.   It is my prayer that I and everyone else may come to walk in beauty.  If we did, what a wonderful world it would be.

–Chuck

I took the images shown above on a trip earlier this week to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway.


Jan 15 2012

Creation and Holiness

Can enjoying nature help lead one to be holy?  Perhaps so.  In his book, Consider the Lilies, T. M. Moore makes the argument that since Creation is a form of revelation like the Scriptures then it must have as one of its divine purposes our sanctification.  He explains it this way: “If we are daily more and more conscious of the presence of the Lord around us, and enthralled with the revelation of His glory and grandeur, we will be less inclined to follow those paths that we know to be displeasing to Him.” 

Moore goes on to use God pointing out the many marvels of nature to Job as one of the tools He used to set Job back on the right path.  He writes, “The majesty, beauty, power, and intimate care of God revealed in the things He has made, and daily sustains, brings Job to his knees and turns him from sliding into sin to pursuing holiness before the Lord.  It is reasonable to suppose that disciplining ourselves to discern the glory and grandeur of God in general revelation can have the same benefit for us, thus fulfilling one of God’s purposes in so making Himself known.”

I must admit I had never previously given much thought to the idea of God using Creation to make us holy.  I certainly knew that the beauty and wonder of God’s handiwork often leads me to worship and praise Him but the thought of Creation turning me from sin and toward the pursuit of holiness is something new.  It does, however, make sense and now that I think about it I can see how Creation has operated in this way in my life for many years.

I know from experience that I have often moved towards sin as a result of what someone has humorously called “stinking thinking.”  I suppose in some sense, all sin originates in the mind.  I also know from experience that being outdoors and paying attention to God’s Creation helps me to think more clearly.  When I’m enjoying nature I’m not thinking about money, power or sex—things that often get us moving in the wrong direction.  When I’m enjoying or pondering the wonders of Creation I’m not worrying about the things I tend to worry about.  Worry happens to be something else that leads me in the wrong direction.  In looking back I can now see how many times “seeing Creation” has kept me from “stinking thinking” and thus away from sin.  It has forced my attention time and time again to God and thus toward holiness.

The apostle Paul knew that what we think about will have a profound effect on our lives.  That’s why he said, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)  I’m sure Paul had a lot of different things in mind when he gave this list but I cannot help but believe that he would include here the wonders of God’s Creation.  There truly are benefits in thinking about “such things.”

–Chuck

(I took the top image in Zion National Park.  I took the bottom two at Arches National Park.  Both parks are located in southern Utah.)