To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common--this is my symphony.
~William Henry Channing

Friday, July 3, 2009

Something More

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."
I Corinthians 10:31
and
"Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men..."
Colossians 3:23
These are verses that I remind myself and the kids of often. Everything we do, no matter how small or bothersome, should be done to the glory of God. Every job, chore and task should be done well because we do it as if God himself has asked us to do it. We are diligent and hard working because of what we read in these verses. This is a good thing I believe, and probably not unique to my home. I bet that countless other Mom's tell their children the same thing everyday.
But what if there is something more?
What if, just maybe, there is another step we could take?
Aesthetics is defined as "new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world." This definition was surprising to me because I had only heard the word used in conjunction with whether or not something was aesthetically pleasing to the eye. You know, the idea that certain colors combine to create a "look" that is enjoyable or something similar?
At the conference last week I went to two workshops dealing with the idea of aesthetics and it's relation to believers. It was like opening the front door and instead of seeing my yard, I saw a whole other world. One completely unfamiliar and slightly difficult to grasp but at the same time, inviting and appealing.
My knowledge is limited at this point but I'll try and share what I learned.
All through out Scripture we see that the cosmos...the entire universe...is oriented toward God. (Yes, I know sin has corrupted that orientation but we'll get there in a minute.) We read in I Corinthians 8:6, "Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one LORD, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." Colossians 1:16 states "For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him."
So how does this connect with the other stuff I've said? What does this have to do with chores and jobs and activities? I'm glad you asked. Take those verses and overlay them on the definition of aesthetics. That is the lens through which we "see and perceive" the world. Suddenly, beauty is no longer found in the eye of the beholder. It isn't subjective to personal tastes but is anchored in Christ himself. He becomes our definition of beauty and in him beauty does not stand alone. Real beauty is intertwined with truth and goodness because God is beauty, truth and goodness.
This opens the door for us to see beauty in the mundane, in the prosaic. And it gives us an avenue to proclaim what we believe about God in the mundane and prosaic, transforming even the simplest of task into a symbol of the Gospel. Take this example shared by the speaker in the second workshop. A former student wrote a paper and in essence it went something like this...the young man hated making his bed. He despised the chore, stating emphatically that he found it counter productive to make it every morning, knowing that at the end of the day he would make a mess of it. (How's that for a savvy way to get out of a chore? You have to have sympathy for his parents :-) But something happened to this young man as he began to learn about true aesthetics. He said that he could view his bed every morning as a symbol of the disorder caused by sin. (Remember the thing about the corruption of the orientation of our world?) As he smoothed out the covers and set the bed to rights he would ponder how God set the world to rights through his Son. Suddenly making his bed went beyond glorifying God in obedience to his parents and became something more. Something beautiful. He was reflecting God's redemption in something as simple and basic as making a bed. Sounds crazy? Maybe a little too "out there" and mystical? I really don't think so.
My life should be adorned with truth, beauty and goodness. When I recognize that the way I keep house, love and submit to my husband, raise my children, and even the way I speak is a proclamation of what I believe, it will revolutionize how I do them. How I think of them. I imitate God and declare the Gospel even in doing my laundry. Everything has meaning. My life becomes about more than the here and now. It becomes about the eternal.
Consequently, what does it mean when my home is not in order? What are my children saying when they don't show kindness and respect? Am I showing the world that I believe God is the sovereign ruler? That what sin distorted and corrupted God has restored through Christ? I do believe those things. And everything I do should be a statement of that faith.

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