There is so much ugliness in the world today. It crowds and invades the soul. Now more than ever, beauty is powerful. Sincerity is subversive. A life close to the deep spiritual currents which run through all things that are truly beautiful — this is elusive to us.
In the age of efficiency and productivity and unending busyness, something as simple as a flower in bloom can stop us cold. Lashed as so many of us are to the altar of efficiency, long past any hope of lasting peace or rest or satisfaction — simple beauty pierces us. It holds us.
Everyone loves flowers. Flowers are their own language. Within the universal language of beauty they are a dialect which is most especially spoken and understood by women. The things it communicates are often deeper than words can say, if one is willing to listen. Many earnest women have upended their lives in this busy and stressful world to chase after flowers, hoping to earn their living immersed in this wordless language of beauty. Many more long to do the same, daydreaming of fields in bloom while chained to a desk or a mop or an Instagram feed. Hoping against hope that if they could just fill their lives with enough beauty, they themselves will be full.
But it’s a lie. No beauty we find in the world can fill us.
A hazy summer sky reflected on a glassy bay so the purest blue stretches unbroken from beach to clouds; an exquisite chord or a single sustained note in a song that saturates a parched soul to the core (if only for an instant); and even endless fields of flowers in all their autumn splendor — alone, not one of these can satisfy.
As a man I’ve always felt that flowers were only ever a backdrop to the beauty of the women who love them, and in some sense that’s true. But even Eve at her best, the crown jewel of creation, in body and being beyond compare among all else that lives and grows and moves on this side of glory — even her beauty, and the fact that we have any capacity to appreciate it, reflects the heart of her maker.
I think it’s abundantly obvious that God exists, that his design and his character fill the world. After all, “the heavens declare the glory of God, so that no one has any excuse.”
In every human being’s quest for meaning and purpose, we may search the pages of history and wrestle with philosophy and wonder at the impossible intricacy of the laws which govern physical reality, which mock all attempts to dismiss as random the vast, orderly drama of our expanding universe. And I’ve spent much time there trying, at first without really knowing why, later with purpose and eventually a recognized need, to learn the truth. To find the eternal beauty hidden not too far behind the mundane facts of life.
I should have started there. I should have started with beauty.
The source of all beauty made all things in the beginning, and in the present He patiently endures the corruption of all things, and at the restoration of the world, He is the ultimate end of all things which have been redeemed.
So we don’t grow flowers because we think they will save us or heal us or fill us. Yes, we love them. Yes, we earn some part of our living this way. But only ever a part. A living is not life. And beauty, however precious, is not salvation.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? “Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the flowers of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, oh you of little faith?
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans strive after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.”