A young boy trips over and skins his knee. He takes a big breath, fuelling himself for a very long cry, gives his mother a quick glance to make sure she’s watching – and then spots a butterfly. He stares at in wonder, as his pain is forgotten and the opportunity to get attention is missed. He is having a moment of beauty. The mother has her own moment of beauty. On her way to comfort her child, she stops and simply enjoys the look upon her son’s face.
Moments of beauty are like that. You are so caught up in something beautiful that you forget your own worries, your own fears and your own desires. All the thoughts that were fighting with each other inside your head simply disappear. You forget about ‘me’ for a while. You forget about everything. You simply enjoy the beauty.
The best example of a moment of beauty is the mother who looks into her newborn baby’s eyes. Regardless of how many moments of beauty I have in my life, nothing will ever compare to that experience. In fact, I doubt very much whether anyone is ever captivated quite so much as a woman who first looks into her child’s eyes. The pain of labour is completely forgotten. The worries and fears about how she will actually raise her child no longer seem that important. To say you lose yourself is a cliché, but sometimes a cliché best expresses the truth. The new mother really does lose herself. When a mother looks at her newborn, she doesn’t think of who she is or what she wants. There are no thoughts at all, well not in words. Just an overwhelming feeling of love and wonder.
Moments of beauty don’t have to be centred around some amazing experience, like giving birth to a child. They happen all the time. They can be big or small. Sitting on the beach watching the sunset. A flock of birds flying overhead. Looking at a waterfall. Attending a school assembly and hearing children sing. Listening to the solo of a classically trained singer. A moment of silence at the end of a hectic day. Walking into an old church and feeling the impact of awe, magnificence and wonder.
The other day, I was standing outside the shopping centre, when a young couple walked past. I can’t remember what I was thinking about at that moment, but I’m sure I considered it terribly important at the time. But as soon as I saw them, I stopped thinking. Now they were attractive, but I wouldn’t say they were stunning. But there was something about their faces and their body languages that really moved me. There seemed to be an ease there that you very rarely find. They looked at each other as if they really understood the value of the other person. Not stunning, no. But definitely beautiful, even if it’s not the kind of beauty that can be captured in photographs.
I have been calling them moments of beauty, but I most often think of them as moments that touch the soul. Because that’s what I think they are. When something captivates you with its beauty, I believe it’s felt more with the soul, than with the body. They are the times when our spirit finally gets our flesh to shut up for a moment. And it’s when our flesh is quiet, that I think God is mostly likely to tap us on the shoulder and remind us that he’s still there.
There is a passage in the bible that always makes me think of moments of beauty. It is found in 1 King 19:11-12.
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
I’m not quite sure why it makes me think of beauty, because there is certainly nothing in there that is beautiful. I think it’s that still small voice at the end. When we do have a moment of beauty, or a moment that touches the soul, we can sometimes hear that still small voice. It’s like God’s gently whispering in our ear. But we have to pay attention or we miss it. And most of the time, we’re not paying attention.
Whether we’re paying attention or not, I think moments of beauty are God’s way of reminding us that this life and this flesh are not all that matters. When we ignore our flesh, we can begin to pay attention to our spirit. When we lose ourselves, we may just end up finding God.