What determines beauty? Is it intrinsic, as in the beauty of a rose in full bloom, or the giggle of a delighted baby at the silly antics of a parent? Or is it “in the eye of the beholder” – totally subjective, determined by the individual – the reason some prefer Mozart to Stravinsky, symmetry to asymmetry?
On Sundays we are surrounded by beauty: majestic organ music filling our Sanctuary, a family’s joy during an infant baptism, 100 voices blended in choral song, friendly faces wreathed in smiles, the corporate affirmation of our beliefs.
And it is easy to see beauty in our natural world: azaleas in springtime, a loved one’s face wrinkled by the years, an Astros walk-off home run, a trusting young child holding a grandparent’s hand.
But sometimes the external world becomes overwhelming, and beauty hard to find. It is then that we must return to Philippians and train ourselves to “think about these things”. For it is easy to see the discord, the pain, and the injustice in the world and to be discouraged to the point of despair. But there is also beauty in action: in mending broken relationships, in comforting one who is suffering, in fighting for justice.
For most of my life, I have battled depression. I am fortunate to have a loving family, understanding friends, and excellent doctors. But depression isn’t logical. It doesn’t listen to reason. It doesn’t respect outside factors – it is an inside job. When I am troubled, sad, or depressed, I seek out beauty. I walk in my garden. I trim roses. I feel the wind on my face. I find peace in God’s natural world and beauty in silence. I “think about these things.” For the beauty is always there – it is the beholder’s eye that must be trained to see it.