ON SEEING BEAUTY …
Most of you know that fall is my favorite season. Every year I am blown away by the turning of leaves. Something about that transition is magical and mystical. Each tree seems to have a period of glory. Sometimes it sneaks up you. You walk on the same path every day. But one day, that tree has gone from a slow transition to being brilliantly red, orange, or yellow. It takes your breath away and you literally stop in your tracks. Sometimes you just stare; but sometimes you close your eyes, taking a deep breath of the cool, autumn air, the image of those colors blazed in your mind.
Over the years I have had my favorites. In seminary, there were three small trees planted in a triangle formation. They turned a brilliant yellow every year. But when the leaves fell, three circles of yellow formed on the grass. I couldn’t help thinking of our Trinitarian God looking at those concentric circles of yellow bliss. In my first curacy there was a bush on the church campus that turned blazing red. It was one of those that would sneak up on you. Fortunately, it always held its leaves for a while, so its color was a daily gift of joy for weeks. Here at St. Margaret’s there is a wall of trees lining the front entrance of the property. They are enormously tall, but otherwise unassuming. Their leaves aren’t even pretty in shape. But, when the time is right, they all turn a beautiful yellow that becomes stunning when the sun hits them just right.
As I was walking the property this week, I wondered whether God looks at each of us the way that I lovingly look at the changing leaves. I wonder whether God sees heart-stopping beauty in each of us, gasping in awe of us. Of course, we could never see ourselves in such awe-inspiring ways, but I imagine God can. And unlike us, who have our favorite seasons, I imagine God is in awe of us in all seasons of life. When we are budding with new life, when we are deep shades of green, when we explode in shockingly beautiful colors, and even when we are bare and vulnerable, God sees our beauty always.
If God can see that kind of beauty in us, how might our behavior change if we started seeing that same beauty in ourselves and in others? The work would be hard. I don’t always like the brusque winters or the lazy summers I sometimes see in others. Sometimes I look at myself and only see the ugly shape of my leaves and not their brilliant color. But if God is willing to see the beauty in all seasons of my life, perhaps I can start trying to see the beauty in myself and others, too.