A conversation about beauty


“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” someone famously said. John Ames, Gilead’s main character, expresses two observations early in the book about beauty.

Is beauty something you notice more when you are dying like Ames? Is it something that can be awakened or reawakened in us in other moments? I hope so.

Worship in every place for me displays the beauty of God. I have worshipped in grand sanctuaries like at St. Paul’s, as well as house churches, warehouses and neighborhood churches. I’ve been in small chapels and in settings where the languages spoken were not my native tongue. In each, the beauty of God is on exhibit.

Even as Ames muses that he “doesn’t know what is beautiful anymore,” he names two experiences (p. 5) that are very different and each beautiful to him.

One is the sound of his wife singing to their child as he listens from the other room. He can’t make out what song she is singing but “it sounds beautiful to me, but she laughs when I say that.” I guess beauty doesn’t need corroboration. Maybe it really is in the eye (or ear!) of the beholder.

The next one Ames witnesses and claims is two young “rascally fellows” who work in a local mechanical garage. They are joking and leaning against the side of the garage as they go back and forth with each other laughing. He has no idea what they are talking about but the scene is “beautiful” to him. Laughter takes us over, he says, and letting it be unleashed is a beautiful thing to watch.

Are you awake to the beauty of God around you? Are you watching for the varied ways it shows up in the world and in our lives?