The Pull of Beauty
Updated: Aug 26, 2022
“Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.”
~St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
A couple of days ago, my husband snapped this picture of Lake Twenty-Two, located in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The trailhead is not far from our home. After roughly an hour and a half of hiking in and 1400 feet up, he snapped the gorgeous image above.
Whether we agree on politics, religion, or the best winery in Washington state, I'll wager we can agree that this pristine alpine lake is breathtakingly beautiful.
Something about the unspoiled beauty of nature unifies us, despite our differences, in the common breath of our AWE.
Such beauty has held mankind under its spell since the beginning of time. Ancient and modern history testify that we can get it wrong, however, by worshipping the handiwork of the Creator rather than the Author of Creation. The Bible is full of examples that go both ways.
Some of the most dramatic praise of God, inspired by nature, is found in the Psalms. Three thousand years later, the AWE of the Israelites assures us that the heart and soul of humanity have not changed one iota. We are still slain by the work of His Hands:
"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the firmament proclaims the works of his hands.
Day unto day pours forth speech;
night unto night whispers knowledge.
There is no speech, no words;
their voice is not heard;
A report goes forth through all the earth,
their messages, to the ends of the world."
(Ps 19:1-5 New American Bible)
The Pull of Beauty on Our Soul is Uniquely Human.
A thousand years after King David and others wrote their last psalms, St. Paul boldly proclaimed in his letter to the Romans that no one can look upon creation and lack knowledge of the Creator.
Now fast-forward 125 years. In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St Therese of Lisieux wrote how nature's beauty imparted wings to her spirit, lifting her towards God.
"When I was six or seven years old, I saw the sea for the first time. The sight made a deep impression on me, I could not take my eyes off it. Its majesty, and the roar of the waves, all spoke to my soul of the greatness and power of God [pg. 30] ."
She fondly recalled the scenery in Switzerland, sweeping her thoughts heavenward:
"Farther on a great lake with its blue waters, so calm and clear, would blend with the glowing splendor of the setting sun. I cannot tell you how deeply I was impressed with this scenery so full of poetry and grandeur. It was a foretaste of the wonders of Heaven. [pg. 62]"
To resist the pull of beauty is impossible, for we were created to inhale its very essence. And that essence ultimately will lead us to Him with the tiniest crack of openness, for the breath of the Spirit permeates our AWE. It is the food of the soul.