Beauty is a signpost pointing to God

November 11, 2013

carole_king

Years ago, I paid 10 cents for a used vinyl copy of Carole King’s 1971 album TapestryIf you were under 30 in 1971, you probably bought it. If not, you at least know many of the songs: “It’s Too Late,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” “So Far Away,” and “You’ve Got a Friend.” The album sold more than 10 million copies in America alone and is one of the best-selling of all time.

For some reason, although I’ve owned the album for years, I never bothered to listen to it until last week—as I shared with all my Facebook friends (because why wouldn’t they want to know these trivial facts about my life?).

facebook_brad

One incredulous friend responded: “For the first time? You mean the first time this month, this year, or ever?” He simply couldn’t believe that I had deprived myself of the joys of Tapestry for so long. Many other friends agreed with his sentiment, praising the album as one of the best ever.

For some reason, my Facebook post struck a nerve. And I think I know why: Because when something is profoundly beautiful—like a great piece of music or any other work of art—we have a deep-rooted desire to express our admiration and praise. And we also want our friends to share in its glory.

It’s almost as if we human beings were made for praise.

And that’s because we are… The psalmist tells us that it is “fitting” to praise God (33:1, 147:1). As Timothy Keller writes, “It fits to glorify God… All the beauty we have looked for in art or faces or places—and all the love we have looked for in the arms of other people—is only fully present in God himself.”[1]

So when we encounter beauty in the things of this world—even a scratchy old Carole King record—we Christians need to see them, Keller writes, as “mere tributaries and God himself as the fountain, the headwaters of it all.”[2]

This helps me because I struggle with praise. I often sit in church and don’t feel anything when we sing hymns or praise songs. I want to, but I don’t. Granted, I’m a pastor, so I get preoccupied with the “work” aspect of what I’m doing, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

Regardless, I often feel moved beyond words by music I listen to outside of church. My strong desire to express praise and gratitude to the artist for creating that kind of beauty can rightly be directed to God.

So, if you’re like me, the next time something beautiful stirs your soul, tell yourself this: “This beautiful thing is a gift from God. And as beautiful as this experience is, and as satisfying as this experience is, God is even more beautiful and more satisfying.”

Tell yourself that, and praise God.

1. Timothy Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (New York: Dutton, 2013), 168.

2. Ibid., 170.

2 Responses to “Beauty is a signpost pointing to God”

  1. Clay Knick Says:

    Very, nicely said, I love that album; it reminds me of being in junior high school!

    • brentwhite Says:

      Thanks, Clay! Like so much stuff that came out during that time period, it’s a beautifully produced album, too. The music industry has apparently lost the skills to make something sound that good.


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