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Does Beauty Matter? - Compass Classroom Blog

Does Beauty Matter?

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The Dilemma

We live a world full of shouting voices -- voices saying that money matters, that getting a good job, going to college, being successful, and building a business from the ground up, matters. I do not deny that those things are important. But they are certainly not everything. You teach and invest in your children. You make sacrifices and spend endless hours planning and teaching and shepherding your children. And for what?  For a great college education? A suitable career? Of course you want those things for them. But is that all that you want? Is that what is most important? Or is it a happy byproduct of teaching your children to delight in the world and its intricacies and the people in it and their stories? Do you teach them that beauty matters? Does it matter?

Out of all the creatures in the world, which of us marvels at the subtle shades of pinks, oranges, blues, purples of a dying sun? Which of us pauses to study the heavy brush strokes on a canvas? Which of us writes poetry or composes symphonies or decorates a living space or arranges flowers? Lions, bears, cats, mice, and all of the others of the animal kingdom are more than happy simply to exist. It is only we humans who even have the ability to truly live, to recognize and to appreciate beauty. God is an Artist who even invites us to co-create. When we make art (paint, compose, write, etc.), we imitate the Artist. T.S. Eliot said, “Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living.”

Is it Necessary?

Is beauty necessary? No, not in the strictest sense, anyway. We live in a world that has looked at beauty and found it wanting. Beauty is labelled "impractical" in our pragmatic world. We don’t need poetry, concerts, flowers, colors, eyelashes, butterflies, — beauty. We can at least survive without them. But, at the same time, there is something in us that can’t help but imitate it, appreciate it, partake in it. We were made for beauty. We have a longing, a deep yearning within us that feels much like homesickness, for Beauty. Beauty calls for a response. When we catch of glimpse of Beauty, we can’t help but smile or laugh or cry or jump or write or paint or sing. We must do something, be a part of it somehow.  It is C.S. Lewis who says in the Weight of Glory:

“We do not want merely to see beauty . . . we want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it. That is why we have peopled air and earth and water with gods and goddesses, and nymphs and elves.”

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But these beautiful things are not enough. The beautiful things we see on this little globe are only shadows of God. “For they are not the thing itself,” Lewis says later, “they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Beauty is a gift. Encourage your kids to create, to imagine, to delight in the world around them.

What should you do?

How do you do this? Tell them that beauty is all around them. Better yet, don’t just tell them, show them. Turn off the TV. Unplug the iPad. Go outside. Walk. Explore. Point out the colors of the flowers. Delight in the intricacies of a lady bug and they will delight in it, too. Read good books to them and have them read back to you. Value people, listen to them, and spend time with them—and your children will want to, too.

Most importantly, teach them to delight in the Word and in the God who made this world. Saturate them in the Word. Teach them while they are young. “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Is it any coincidence that salvation has been offered only to humankind? God Himself made us to see beauty so that we could see the Cross and be overwhelmed by the loveliest sight ever to touch the earth. The beauty of the gospel does its work in us and makes us able to see. We can delight in the world and its beauty because we delight in its Maker. Contrary to popular belief, heaven is not full of robes and harps and mansions. It is the glorious presence of God — and He is Beauty.