Monday, December 22, 2008

Gratuitous Beauty

Last night I walked out of my parents’ house in the country with my little sister, and saw a magnificent canopy of stars... getting less magnificent every year as the city encroaches closer on the horizon, but magnificent nonetheless.

“Thank you, God!” she shouted to the cold, clear December sky on the eve of her seventeenth birthday. “What a great present!”

I smiled, and joined the applause. It was a gratuitous display of beauty, there for the two of us to enjoy, but there whether or not we enjoyed it.

* * *

Last week I was driving down the interstate, returning home on a three-and-a-half-hour drive to visit my grandmother. I was just in the process of noticing the lovely beginnings of a golden sunset in the southwest when it started to rain above me. Knowing what happens when sunlight and rain converge, I stole a quick glance behind me.

The rainbow was amazing. It covered the whole northeastern sky in a giant semicircle, beginning itself again right below.

For a moment, I connected to the promise to Noah made in Genesis. Apart from the issue of worldwide floods that scholars may argue about, the rainbow spoke of goodness, beauty painted across the heavens just for the hell of it. God gives us light like a wrapped present that the particles of water unwrap into colored brilliance, for no apparent reason other than that he likes it that way.

I immediately turned on my turn-signal so I could pull over and admire the masterpiece, but the rain stopped as suddenly as it began, and the rainbow was gone.

Another gratuitous display of beauty, only there for a moment.

* * *

And I sit here and try to articulate what this beauty does in my soul, what it would do to my theology if I let it in there, but I can’t get much farther than my little sister’s exclamation. What can be said of a God who integrates beauty into the intricacies of his handiwork, who can make gargantuan balls of burning gas glorious or bent light in the rain gorgeous? Just that he did a good job of it, I suppose.

Yay God! Bravo!

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