Letting Go of Beauty
I’ve been stuck with this idea lately that won’t keep bouncing around my mind.
In this culture where everything is aesthetically pleasing, cultivated, and well-curated to capture our attention and create a desire within our hearts for more, what would it look like to be content with appreciating something beautiful, then let it go?
I started thinking back to Eve in the Garden and digging deeper into the desires that she acted upon when she took the forbidden fruit.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. -Genesis 3:6
They were two-fold: she saw that the fruit was desirable and pleasing to the eye, and she thought it would make her more like God.
The serpent, after all, had convinced Eve that God was keeping the fruit from her because He knew that it would make her more like Him:
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” -Genesis 3:4-5
Appreciating beauty and being image bearers of God are rooted in the core of who we are. We were created in the image of a beautiful God, so we have an intrinsic appreciation of beauty within our hearts. We were made to long for Him, so when we see things that might fill that God-sized hole in our hearts, we intuitively lean in a little closer.
But when those desires go unchecked and we begin grabbing at all the lovely things, we become hoarders of objects that leave us wanting more, and ultimately create dissatisfaction. Instead of cultivating an appreciation for beauty and learning to move right along, we become needy consumers who can’t seem to find happiness unless we’re reaching out and keeping those beautiful things all to ourselves.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
I was scrolling through Instagram the other day, mindlessly perusing, when all of a sudden this adorable girl who I follow and enjoy posted this insanely cute sweater that I really liked. As I paused to read her caption, I was immediately succumbed by this need to BUY THE SWEATER.
Never mind that I have dozens of warm, cute, well-fitting sweaters in my closet.
Never mind that our bank account is a bit tight lately as we recently purchased a car.
Never mind that I DID NOT NEED THE SWEATER … I needed that sweater.
She was saying how comfortable it was, how happy she was wearing it, and she was even offering a COUPON! I could save 15% on this exact sweater if I ordered at this exact moment! It was fate, right? My instinct was to ignore reason and JUST BUY IT, because I DESERVED THIS SWEATER!
In reality, I panicked when I checked our bank account, put my phone down, and slowly walked away from that sweater that was calling my name. But the process it took to get me there was one of want, impulse, slight envy, dissatisfaction, and a search for contentment in something that I would probably grow tired of and cast aside within months.
Have you been there? Maybe it wasn’t a sweater for you. Maybe it was a beautiful house, a new pair of shoes, or a beautiful life featuring a precious baby, handsome husband, and perfectly styled photos of this beautiful Super-mom dream wife who seemingly has it all.
We see beauty, and we want it for ourselves.
We believe we need it because it is desirable and pleasing to the eye.
We want it because we feel a void that we think this might fill.
But that void? That appreciation for beauty? Those are symptoms of a greater need. Those are an indication that this world is not our home (Hebrews 13:14).
We were created for something more beautiful (Ephesians 2:10).
We were made for relationship and communion with God in perfect harmony, in a beautiful garden full of fruit and life and beauty (Acts 17:27).
So what do we do with those desires that seem to swallow us whole in a moment?
We lay them out before God. We take them captive. We actually think them over, pause and pray about them with wisdom and discernment before moving out of impulse.
Think back to the Garden and learn from Eve’s mistake. She was presented with the temptation of something desirable and she acted on it. She could have gone back to God, the source Himself, and asked Him what He thought about this whole conversation with the Serpent. She could have turned to her other half, her partner in the Garden, and asked Adam what he remembered God saying.
She could have seen the beautiful fruit, come back to the source of that beauty, and been reminded that the Lord created her with a desire that only He could fill. That fruit that seemed delicious and enjoyable was in the middle of a Garden of trees FULL of fruit for the taking. She had everything she needed. She walked in communion with a perfect God who loved her and valued her and had given her everything she needed for life and godliness.
We are not that different from Eve. We see those things and hope they will make us a smidge happier. So we reach out and take them.
But what if we learned to take those desires, hand them back to the Lord, and ask Him to help us find contentment in relationship with Him?
What if we utilized the accountability that surrounds us and the wisdom given to us from the Holy Spirit to make a choice out of love for God instead of like toward an object?
What if we appreciated that fruit (or sweater, antique, friend’s house, new car, better clothes, neighbor’s bank account, her following, or fill in your blank here) then learned to say, “I have all that I need and all that I long for in Jesus.”
And as if that isn’t already enough, what if we asked the Lord to shift our eyes to contentment with what we currently have? What if we stopped believing that contentment was around the corner or in that next purchase, and what if we asked the Holy Spirit to help us see with eyes of plenty? What if we paused long enough to think about how we could better use that money, space or freedom to serve and bless someone else instead of keeping it to ourselves?
I think that the joy of the Lord would have much more fertile soil to grow in if we started rooting out the need for more and replaced it with the peace of mind that Christ is enough.