The first time I visited Phoenix, Arizona, I spent several days north of the city at a friend’s house, which is halfway up a mountain.
Sitting on her back veranda, one can see the expansive valley below. One evening at sunset, we watched as row upon row of mountains turned pink and then purple and then mauve. I was awed at the beauty of God’s creation because, living in Steubenville, Ohio, I didn’t have many opportunities to see natural beauty.
As I reflected on this experience, it struck me: the purpose of beauty is to make us stop—stop what we are doing; stop rushing around; stop, look, and see the goodness of God and reconnect with him.
I once heard a story about a monk who, along with two young novices, was waiting outside an office building in New York City one summer day. A beautiful woman walked by, and since it was summer, she was dressed for the hot weather. The abbot continued to watch the woman until finally one of the young novices said, “Ahem. Brother Abbot, you’re embarrassing us.” And the abbot asked, “Why?” The novice replied, “Well, you know, the way you keep looking at her.”
“Oh,” the abbot said, “I was thinking about how beautiful she is and how beautiful God must be to create such beauty and how beautiful she must be on the inside, and I was praying for her.” Beauty made the abbot stop, look, and think of the goodness and beauty of God.
Wouldn’t it be great if beauty could do the same for us? When we see a starry night, we could take the time to stop and think, “God is good . . . all the time.” When we see a hummingbird in flight, we could allow this encounter to reconnect us with God. When we see a beautiful woman, we could say to ourselves, “I know that God exists; how else could such beauty come about?”
I’d like you to close your eyes for a minute and imagine in your mind something that makes you stop and notice and reconnect with God. Maybe it’s a beautiful rose, or a tiny newborn baby, or a soft white blanket of new-fallen snow. Maybe it’s a beautiful piece of music or the sight of an elderly person, hunched over and shuffling along. These are God’s fingerprints, the tracks that he’s left behind on earth; tracks that we’re meant to follow to lead us to God; tracks that open our eyes to see beyond what’s immediately visible.
St. Augustine once said, “Our whole business, therefore, in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”2 Isn’t that our life business as well—to believe in the goodness of God until the eye of our heart can see it?
Excerpted from When Life Doesn’t Go Your Way by Katrina J. Zeno (The Word Among Us Press, 2009). Available at wau.org/books