Throughout this spring and summer in my comings and goings from Hope Church, I have cherished the frequent sight of Hope member Mary Gosselin gardening around the perimeter of our building and property. I am grateful to Mary, and to all the gardeners who have worked with her or preceded her. Gardeners point us to God.
In a general sense, we understand gardening to be “the art and craft of growing plants with a goal of creating a beautiful environment within the landscape.” More specifically, from the perspective of Christian faith, we understand that gardening, the cultivation of beauty, has an underlying evangelistic purpose. How is this so? Because beauty stirs within us longing for God.
Psalm 27:4 says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Great worship connects us to the beauty of the Lord. “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Psalm 96:6). We praise God from whom all blessings flow. We praise God from whom all beauty flows.
In the creation account of Genesis 1, traditional translations tell us “God saw that it was good” (vv. 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31). The Hebrew word used here, tov¸ can also be translated as “beautiful.”* How refreshing to ponder God’s noticing of and appreciation for beauty. God creates dry land and seas – and “saw that it was beautiful.” God creates vegetation and trees – and “saw that it was beautiful.” God creates day and night – and “saw that it was beautiful.” God creates the creatures of the sea and birds of the air – and “saw that it was beautiful.” God creates the beasts of the earth and the things that creep – and “saw that it was beautiful.” As the culmination of his creative acts, God creates human beings, male and female, in his image. Beholding everything that he had made, God saw “that it was very beautiful.”
The beautiful world that God gave us is too often marred by ugliness and devastation of various kinds, sad testimony to sin and its consequences. It is an act of faith for us, as image bearers of our Creator (and creative) God, to restore beauty whenever and however we can.
It is true that excessive zeal for beauty can cross over into extravagance, and extravagance into decadence. We need to be on guard against this tendency and speak truth to one another when that happens.
But that should not prevent us from filling our lives, and our lives together in Christ, with beauty. Let our homes be beautiful. Let our places of work be beautiful. Let our places of worship be beautiful. Let the buildings and grounds of our churches be beautiful.
Let us cultivate beauty. Because beauty comes from God. Because beauty is God’s gift to stir longing within us to seek him.
David Lenz, Lead Pastor
*For this insight I am grateful to Andrew Cuneo and his article “Beauty Will Save the World – But Which Beauty?” (May 18, 2009), from In Pursuit of Truth/A Journal of Christian Scholarship.