Beauty … often best described with wordless wonder. We all recognize beauty because it somehow finds resonance within us. Beauty is not something we simply behold … its something we enter into. It disrupts our indifference and draws us to what is worth pursuing. Beauty awakens desire; it is what makes us alive. The more we try to ignore it, the more we lose ourselves and our reason for being.
We can all recognize the beauty in this scene. Yet, we also know that no matter how beautiful this scene is, no one scene captures all that beauty is. Beauty can never be exhausted by any one definition, any one picture, any one form. Beauty cannot be mastered but unreservedly gives itself in friendship; it can never be controlled but continually invites us to participate in its own reality. Beauty cannot be limited to any one definition, yet it continually gives itself to anyone who is simply prepared to be astonished.
It is this moment of awe, this moment of wordless, breathless wonder that we know beauty most fully.
A friend of mine took his daughter for her very first big hike.
It was a rather demanding hike for a young child – two hours one way – but the promise of a waterfall and the excitement of exploring new terrains seemed to all that was needed to energize her for this journey.
They finally reached their destination and what a sight awaited them! A magnificent waterfall in all its glory … just took their breath away.
The thunderous sound was overwhelming.
At one point she reached into her bag, took out her water container, emptied the contents it and then slowly made her way the the edge of the waterfall to fill it all up again. She carefully sealed it, put it back in her bag.
They spend the afternoon just enjoying the waterfall; having a picnic. Their journey on the way home was filled with conversation and plans of bringing mom and the rest of the family to come and enjoy this beautiful experience. When they eventually got home, she called her mom. With great excitement she took the bottle of water and told everyone to be quiet. She opened it, but her excitement turned to disappointment.
She looked to her Dad and said “….but dad you heard it!”
Suddenly he realized what was happening and He had to explain to her that the roar of that waterfall could not be captured. When you take that water out of its context it looses its roar.
This girl was obviously sincere in her attempt to capture that moment … to preserve that experience of beauty that she simply wanted to share with others. Aren’t we the same … but there are some things that aren’t supposed to be captured.
God and beauty have much in common.
God is less like statements that has to be [must be] believed and more like beauty we fall in love with.
…and just as beauty, God can never be captured with any one definition, any one statement, any one text [or] any one language. God has never subjected Himself to our understanding of Him, for He is not subject to any form of control. Yet He unreservedly gives Himself to anyone who is simply prepared to be astonished. As we encounter this surprising gift of love, we know that this experience is more real and more true than any attempt at defining it.
God … and concepts of God are not the same. And God reveals Himself, not concepts about Himself. When this distinction is not clear it’s so easy for our concepts of God to become abstract idols … not unlike the girl’s little container with which she tried to capture that roaring waterfall. We want to share the moment, we want to share this inspiration with others but there are two distinctly different ways to go about it. Our concepts of God can become either idols or icons.
What is the difference between an idol and an icon?
Well since earliest times, people have tried to preserve that glimpse and we resorted to our art, to paint, to sculpt. Idols became some of the means by which we tried to capture the divine. And therein lies its perversion. In reality the idols capture our vision of the divine yet it pretends to have captured God Himself.
How difficult it is for words to accurately describe this beauty without pretending to have captured it. When our concepts of God … when we insist that our interpretation of sacred scripture, is what captured the face of God Himself… thats when our concepts become idols.
Does this mean that we should abandon all attempts at describing God? Should we rather just be silent and experience this mystical union?
Not at all!
Once we recognize this inherent danger we may discover yet a completely more valuable way of using our words. When our words inspire others to go and experience the beauty of who and what God is, our words have found their greatest calling. Language finds its greatest fulfillment when it symbolizes beauty and its greatest perversion in claiming to have captured it.
Idols claim to possess, Icons symbolize. Very much like the icons we have on our computer screens that we can click on to open up applications give us access to information that’s much larger than the icon. In the same way, when our words point beyond themselves, when our concepts point beyond themselves, they become icons of beauty.
2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks about this event in which we behold Christ as in a mirror.
Idols are produced when we withdraw from that moment of inspiration too quickly, when we, at the first glimpse draw back and start defining the experience. Icons, on the other hand, are developed when we do not withdraw but we continue to look, we continue to behold and gaze until we discover another gaze more intently focussed on us. Icons represent this gaze that we have not captured; this gaze that is infinitely more than what we have glimpsed.
You see in this place of encounter, we are no longer simply occupied with what we see but we are mesmerized by what is seen in us.
And so our faces are transformed into the visible mirror of this invisible gaze.
Did you know that Jesus is called the icon of the invisible God? [Col 1:15] Jesus does not come to exhaust the revelation of who and what God is but he is the introduction into an ever unfolding revelation, and ever unfolding experience that is larger than ourselves. If Jesus is indeed the self-revelation of God, then He is also the end of our concepts about God. He is the icon that eliminates our idols, our abstract theories with which we try to define the infinite and confine the limitless.
Jesus comes first and foremost, not to strengthen your faith in God, but to make you an atheist in the god of your own making. He comes to bring your faith, your way of subjecting God to your own understanding, he come to bring that to an end.
It is only at this place where our ideas and our faith is completely devastated that we have an opportunity to meet the God who transcends all our ideas about God. This is why so many church fathers and mystics have said something similar to this: To experience God is to experience the complete and utter failure of your own intellect.
This does not mean that we abandon our intellectual pursuit of Him. The silence that best describes God is not a silence of emptiness, but rather the awe at the superabundance of what can be said about Him. It in this place of encounter that Our concepts are continually drawn by the infinite God to transcend its own limits.
And so our concepts become icons of the infinite experience of God beyond any one definition.
Song of Songs 2:14 says:
Come away my beloved
to the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
I want to see your face,
I want to hear your voice,
for your voice is lovely,
and your face so sweet.
Can you sense God drawing you to encounter with Himself beyond any pre-defined expectations. If you have found yourself disappointed with God, maybe what you’ve been disappointed with has been your concepts of God. But God is ready to surprise you, He is ready to astonish you, with a beauty that you are part of.
And may I also ask you that in our proclamation of this gospel, may we proclaim to people more … may we introduce them to more than our concepts about God. May we point beyond our own theories and ideas and introduce them to the One who adores them … the One who’s glory is displayed on their faces.
I am the stirring in your being,
the elusive beauty beyond,
and the space between.
I am no stagnant destination,
a statement confined,
a concept defined,
but the path,
the living story,
the narrative unending.
I am what happens,
when you recognize the mystery in the music,
the crescendo to come.
I am the gift of distance,
the awareness of presence,
elusive and self-giving,
evading and overwhelming.
I am no thing,
the infinite possibility
I am who desires you,
although I have no need of you.
Director – Eugene Rabe
Cinematography – Eugene Rabe
Sound Engineer – Richard Vossgatter
Producer – Mary-Anne Rabe
Author – Andre Rabe
Narrator – Andre Rabe
Poem Narrator – Robert Ricotta
Music Licensed through themusicbed.com
Nostalgia – A. Taylor
Rise – Tony Anderson
I Sought My love Beyond the Hill, I Found Her Bathed in Waters Still
Get Up – Josh Hoover
Hannah Grace Basson (girl)
JJ Basson (father)
Annitta Basson (mother)
Actors in Poem –
Two books in particular have inspired some of the thoughts, namely:
God Without Being by Jean-Luc Marion and The Beauty of the Infinite by David Bentley Hart