A woman I know sent me a few pictures of her young daughter Friday. I hadn’t seen pictures of this little girl for about six or eight months — and I wasn’t prepared for how seeing her would affect me.
This little lady is beautiful. Her mother is beautiful, too, so that’s no surprise, but she’s already getting to the point that she looks more like a beautiful little girl than just a drooling baby. She has some teeth and you can see depth of personality in her toothy little grin. You can see some kind of beauty that transcends physical appearance in an inexplicable way.
Looking at those pictures almost made me cry, because I was overwhelmed with a beauty that pierced my heart and pointed me once again toward the joy of living in this amazing Creation.
Saturday evening at sunset, I was walking in a local park when I realized the sky had suddenly started turning pink and orange and red and gold. I stopped walking and just stood there trying to drink it all in. For about 15 minutes, I felt as though I was watching a Master Painter put on another showing of the world’s longest-running art show. The western sky glowed and changed colors constantly for a few minutes, but even the sky overhead and on other sides was a delicate pink and orange.
A little girl came walking by with her parents and she looked at me as she pointed to the sky.
“It’s pink!” she told me with excitement in her voice.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” I asked her and she nodded enthusiastically as they walked past. Her parents never looked and never said a word. (Click here for a bigger image of the sky.)
In both of these cases, I experienced the joy and beauty of this Creation in ways that were so strong they hurt. With both of them, I felt a fullness in my chest around my heart. It felt like love that was going to break through my chest and fill the world.
I was filled with painful pleasure. I felt happy to be alive.
Nature can sometimes be so wonderful that it hurts when I experience it, but I certainly don’t mean it’s something to be avoided. It’s the same kind of painful pleasure — a lump in my throat, a full heart, a warmth all over — that I sometimes get from art, especially music.
That pain which pierces my heart makes me excited to be alive. It feeds my soul. It reminds me why I need connection to God and people and all of Creation. I never feel as alive as I do in such moments.
I realize that not everyone experiences such things in the same way. I have no idea why, but some people seem oblivious to such beauty. They’re the sorts who hastily rush to wherever they’re going instead of stopping to watch the colorful sky or gathering storm clouds or the rustling red and golden leaves waving in the breeze of an autumn day. They’re the sorts who see imaginative children as nuisances to be handed off to others to mold as soon as possible, not living works of art to love and cherish.
I need art. I need nature. I need beauty. Something about them feeds a hunger in me which food can never fill.
I grew up with the vague notion that it was shallow for me to care very much about beauty. I heard people lamenting men and women choosing romantic partners based on their looks instead of their brains, personalities, values, character and hearts. So I spent years trying not to care so much about beauty — especially in women — lest I have to judge myself shallow.
But I think I’m finally mature enough to understand there is something built into me which seeks beauty, whether it’s sunsets or a little girl’s face or well-designed buildings or hills covered with colorful trees or a lovely woman’s face. There is something in me which is programmed to need these keys which perfectly fit a lock that opens my heart.
Life is more fulfilling to me when it’s filled with such experiences. Money and nice houses and nice cars and things other people might admire are great. I enjoy such material things — but they’ll never be worth as much to me as experiences which are there all around me for the taking. For free.
When I experience a loved face or a colorful sunset or a powerful thunderstorm, it’s as though I’m indirectly experiencing the love of God. My heart is overwhelmed. For that moment, I feel connected to all things in pure love — and I experience the joy of being alive.
I need that love. I crave it.