Am I in love with ugliness? Are you in love with ugliness? Let the question sit with you for a second. How often do we focus on the ugly, dirty, and broken? How much time in our day is spent complaining about our circumstances or discussing the ugliness of someone else? Is minimizing weaknesses taking more of our time and effort than maximizing our strengths? When someone else talks about beauty, loveliness, grace, and compassion, does it make us feel just a little uncomfortable? When you look in the mirror, what do you automatically see - flaws or features? And why is it that things like conflict and confrontation are ridiculously awkward obstacles that keep us in bondage to dysfunctional patterns of living, instead of being tools for our redemption and opportunities for success?
The whole questioning reminds me of the words penned by C.S. Lewis:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
From The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses
For the most part, I do not think that we are a bunch of fools sitting around choosing to focus on ugliness, but maybe there are a lot of people that cannot imagine how to live differently or how to solve problems without myopically focusing on the problem. Or maybe even fewer have not been taught how to creatively harness the power of what is beautiful. Maybe, there are a lot of people content with adequacy, mediocrity, and average - far too easily pleased, if you will, because they cannot imagine something better.
My son and I like to climb things - couches, chairs, mounds of pillows and blankets, rocks, jungle gyms, trees, mountains! I was looking through pictures of our vacations and I cannot find one vacation where there are not pictures of us climbing some structure, be it man-made or God-made. The pictures above show our trek up a mountain on a trip to Utah to visit my sister (she also likes to climb things). As soon as my boy walked out of the apartment and saw mountains towering all around him, he started (and would not stop) asking to climb one. So we went climbing! As you can tell, we took a delightfully adventurous route...not an easy one. Elliot inspires me constantly with his ability to see what would be most delightful, most fun, most beautiful, most lovely - even if it is complicated and hard, it's still awesome! And here's another thing...I've read leadership books and heard lectures that say that the reason people climb is because of their vision - the awesome view from the top that they will see once they get there. It's what makes the horrible, hard, ugly climb worth it. And that might be true for some. But that's not how Elliot and I see it. We do love the view from the top, we love the rush of overcoming that obstacle, but we also just love climbing because it's so fun. The climbing serves our connection, our learning, and our imaginations.
The thing with being in love with ugliness is that it just doesn't serve. It doesn't serve you or the world or anything. It just minimizes, stagnates, and destroys.
But beauty! Oh, if we could be in love with beauty. If affirming beauty in others didn't require all the effort of building the pyramids. If obstacles turned into opportunities for play. If honoring individual strengths transformed into teams with incredible collaborative power. If respecting creativity meant more art would be made, more music would be composed, and more poems would be written. If truth was liberating instead of condemning. If freeing captives took precedence over pride and convenience. If even fighting and conflict was for the purpose of mutual resolution to bring about something lovelier than had been before. Now that would be beautiful, that would serve and that I am already falling in love with! Put down your ugly and pick up your beautiful!
"Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies."
Philippians 4:8-9 (The Message)