I am having my morning coffee on board a stately 114 ft, 286 ton yacht, anchored in a very quiet bay. In front of me is the Island of Tortola and to my left is Peter Island, both surrounded by the pristine blue-green waters of the British Virgin Islands. This is the fourth day of an island-hopping adventure with 3 of my college buddies that would surely be at the top of most bucket lists. For the last 4 days I have been surrounded by beauty– certainly not my buddies, although there is a certain beauty to our relationship, but the beauty of the island formations against the backdrop of the blue-black sky; the clouds, the birds, the color of the sea; the trees, the beach huts, the fish, and the sea turtles.
At first, all of this took my breath away. I had no words to describe its beauty. Now I can sit here and write a blog with hardly a thought to my surroundings. Oh, it continues to be beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but is no longer breath-taking. Is it a function of our finite humanity or of our “fallenness” that we cannot sustain the awe of too much reality? You don’t have to agree with me, but I think it is the former; a function of our limited human capacity.
How many times have we experienced something incredible for the first time, only to have it become ordinary the more we experience it? The same is true of negative experiences; pain, grief, and sorrow continue, but neither do they maintain their original intensity. Thus it would seem that God has placed a certain limitation on our ability to sustain pleasure and grief. Once again, please understand, I am not arguing that we cannot not be awed by beauty or be overwhelmed with sorrow, it is just that their respective intensity cannot be sustained.
I bring this up merely because I am in one of the most beautiful places in the world– I am being bombarded by beauty, and it bothers me that I am getting used to it. However, I have discovered that it has led me to worship the God who has created all this beauty and whose very character is beautiful. My buddies and I read Psalm 8 together one day before breakfast; “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth…who has set your glory above the heavens…what is man that you are mindful of him or the son of man that you should care for him?”
Could this be a reason why we were created with the limitation of getting used to beauty? Perhaps it is so that we would be able to recognize that at the end of our awe (as well as our sorrow), there must be worship. However, instead of worship we simply want more of the awe that can never never satisfy. This worship of experience often leads to disappointment or to idolatry and addiction.
It was CS Lewis who said that “if I find in myself a desire which nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.” This means that physical things are shadows or suggestions of things deeper and more real. This also this means that someday I will no longer be bounded by the limitations of experiencing the “deeper real.” Someday, I will not only be freed from the negative experience of pain, sorrow, and grief, but in my resurrected and glorified body I will be able to plumb the depths of beauty. I will never get used to it nor will I ever say, “Is this all”? And most importantly, the experience will never be separated from worship.
Until then, I will intentionally worship the God of beauty whenever I experience the beauty of what he has made.