On Displaying Beauty and Drawing Souls

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This afternoon I screened the first episode of Ken Burns’ award winning documentary The Civil War, for a class I’m teaching.  From the first notes of the soundtrack, I was pulled back in time to September 1990 (and 1994) when I was first enraptured by the sights and sounds of the Civil War.

I’m fairly certain that the love affair with history that marks my life today began that week in the 5th grade, when I spent hours with my dad watching a glorious work of art. Say what you will about Burns’ historical interpretation of the War, the documentary itself is a masterpiece, and I argue that watching it set part of the course of my life (watching his documentary on Baseball in 1994 set another course, but that’s a different post. Go Sox.).

The nostalgia was so thick today that I sent my dad a text, thanking him for exposing me to history in such a beautiful manner. My mom has told me that she still struggles with enjoying history after spending high school in history classes with teacher/coaches who read the sports page while the class read the textbook and completed handouts. That’s not the history of Ken Burns, my friends.

This led me to thinking about the fact that the manner in which we present anything has an impact on how we perceive and receive said thing. The most fantastic parts of life can seem mundane or even terrible if presented a certain way, and the worst parts can appear glorious if sold well. Humanity is drawn to beauty, and I’d argue, we were created that way.

Our God is glorious Creator, and we are Imago Dei. He makes beauty, we are drawn to it. In Exodus 28, God gives the instructions for Aaron’s priestly garments:

“Then bring near to you Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the people of Israel, to serve me as priests—Aaron and Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.
You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood.”
Make sure you catch that. For beauty. God gets the glory, we enjoy the beauty. Some things are just for their beauty. And that serves a purpose all it’s own. No beauty is wasted or pointless.
All of this led me to think about how this applies to so many aspects of teaching and learning and human nature. A simple rule of thumb is, “Humans are drawn to beauty, so make your topic beautiful.” The Gospel IS beautiful, but man, we can kill it sometimes. Show people the beauty of Jesus, and they will be drawn to Him. God made us to worship, and He created us to be drawn to beauty, so allow the beauty of the Gospel to shine through, and people will be drawn to Him. In an increasingly hostile and mean and ugly world, we are desperate for beauty.
May our lives be testimonies of the beauty of our Creator God, so that all those who know us can say, “Show me what gives your life this beauty.” May our cry be that of Psalm 27:4,
One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
Oh, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. If 8 hours of beauty can draw an 11 year old to a lifetime of loving history, imagine what hours of gazing at the beauty of Christ can do for a lost soul.



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