“Though we travel the world over to find beauty we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Morning Coffee with Barry Stebbing
Innocence by William Adolphe Bouguereau
Does not the painting above ring with beauty? Innocence was painted by the French master, William Adolphe Bouguereau at the turn of the 19th century. It’s beauty is sublime and all but perfect.
Consider the term “beauty”. It can be relative through the eyes of every beholder. Beauty can also evolve. For instance, there may have been a time when Claude Monet was your favorite artist and now you have gravitated to Edgar Degas. There is also another perspective of beauty that comes from the transformation of seeing life through the eyes of God.
Ironically, the beauty of this world is in many ways a contradiction to the beauty of God. The French philosopher Sartre said, “Beauty is a veiled contradiction.” Proverbs 31:30 adds a more clarity to this stating, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is vein; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Heading into my fourth decade of marriage to Saundra, I am seeing her in an entirely new way, a flower that has blossomed in God’s time. Though many years older and without the adornments of cosmetics or jewelry, I see her as the gift that God has given me; a hidden treasure. Her beauty comes from her heart, her integrity from the Bible, and she holds an unwavering love that can only come from Christ. Such is the beauty of God.
There was a time when I could not see the flowers along the way, nor the clear blue sky above, or hear the song birds. Everything was smothered within a heavy oppression. And then, with an awakening through Christ, my eyes were opened. I now marvel at the beauty of life. God has given me beauty for ashes.
The Nut Gatherers by William Adolphe Bouguereau
The Nut Gatherers (above)is another masterpiece by William Adolphe Bouguereau. It exemplifies beauty in a simple way within a natural setting. He is noted for both his religious paintings and genre paintings of shepherdesses. Bouguereau lived during the French Neo-Classicism Period, a perfected style influenced by the ancient Greeks. By the end of the 19th century he was internationally acclaimed and awarded many of the highest honors. However, styles quickly changed and modern art brushed his work aside. By the 1950s his name was taken out of French art history books and most of his paintings put in storage. One painting hung behind a bar in New York, and another in a theater. In recent years his reputation has been restored and his paintings are now priceless. Possibly there is an element of truth in the words of James Buchanan when he said, “All that is beautiful shall abide, all that is base shall die.”
However, I believe the greatest beauty still awaits us. As Christ-bearing souls we have this expectancy, gradually looking heavenward and setting the eyes of our imagination on eternity. I Corinthians 13:12 tells us, “But now we see through a glass dimly, but then face to face.” And then we receive more insight in I Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined the wonderful things God has prepared for them that love Him.”
“Anyone who continues to see beauty never grows old.” Franz Kafka
P.S. Coffee memo: “It’s amazing how the world begins to change through the eyes of a cup of coffee.” Donna Favors