Love, beauty, art, and awe

On the first morning when my wife and I were in Hawaii for a wedding a few years back, we both woke up, wide awake, at 4:00 am in the morning. Our body clocks were seriously whacked. I got the bright idea…“Let’s go watch the sunrise over the ocean!” As it turned out, it was brilliant because it was one of those spontaneous moments together that we’ll never forget. 

Thinking back on this beautiful slice of our life, it made me think about what makes us feel most alive. I would venture to say it’s not our career, our achievements, our toys, or what we know. It usually has something to do with love, beauty, art, or awe…because these are the things that deeply move the human soul.

Everything that really matters in life is relational. Not that the other things aren’t important, it’s just that they don’t usually make it on the list in a crisis or on your deathbed.

Of course, much has been written about love. There’s nothing felt more deeply than being in love and being loved by someone. Sadly, there’s nothing more painful than unrequited love.

This is why the most fundamental thing we should know about God is that He is love (1 John 4:8). It’s His essence, who He is, and He loves us exactly the same as He loves Himself.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. (John 15:9 NIV)

And this love never fades or gives up on us.

Genuine love, at its core, is other-centered and self-giving. This is why selfish people struggle with it.

All my life I’ve loved music and art. I’ve personally been a musician since I was very young and dabbled in art through high school. My wife, on the other hand, is a very talented artist. I think in artistic expression we’re simply imitating something, however unknowingly, about how God expresses Himself in creation. I wrote about this in my book, Sonshift

I’ve always liked impressionism. I think one of the reasons is that this art genre seems to express the heart more than the head. These artists aren’t trying to duplicate exactly what they see with technical precision but seek to capture the soul of what they see.

Vincent Van Gogh once said, “I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say ‘he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.” I think this is exactly what our heavenly Father wants to show us in His creation—how deeply and tenderly He feels toward us. (Sonshift, Kindle loc.,1812-1818)

When we lived in Chicago we would go downtown to the Art Institute and spend hours standing in front of these masterpieces, like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s, At the Moulin Rouge. I swear it felt like I was looking right into the soul of this scene (you really need to stand in front of the actual painting). You may have heard a particular song that hit you in just the right way, that made time stand still and you were “in the moment.”

There’s something unpredictable, radical, quirky, imperfect, and mysterious about love, beauty, and art. It’s messy and wild, it catches us unaware. It’s like we’ve glimpsed into something enchanted and other-worldly. We run the danger of telling ourselves it’s nothing…to our own hurt.

But isn’t that what real living is about? To feel deeply, to overcome fear and experience joy, to join in the adventure, to belong, to experience and even be part of something bigger than ourselves. To be stretched, to be challenged, and to be filled with a sense of wonder.

And what about awe? Things majestic, transcendent, splendorous, glorious, sublime…. But even the smallest, most vulnerable things can inspire awe, like the first time you held your baby in your arms. Your understanding of love is suddenly transfigured. It’s like you never knew love before. It forever leaves an indelible imprint on your heart.

That’s divine love.

Even when I think of the fear of the Lord, I think of the unexpected encounters I’ve had with Him that were what I would call reverential shock and awe.

And if our eyes are open to it, we will experience the divine in the most unlikely places.

I’m constantly amazed by how Hollywood captures these transformative moments, which allows some to receive something so wonderfully divine that would never be accepted in religious trappings. Like when we find the song, “A Thousand Years” (by Christina Perri) speaking to us in a sappy teenage vampire movie (Twilight: Breaking Dawn). The song is poignant and timeless because it touches an innate need for undying love. So, we hear it played in weddings everywhere because it beautifully articulates this longing for such true love and devotion.

See how this opening verse beautifully captures our struggle to risk love:

The day we met,
Frozen I held my breath
Right from the start
I knew that I’d found a home for my heart
Beats fast
Colors and promises
How to be brave?
How can I love when I’m afraid to fall
But watching you stand alone?
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow

I could just as easily sing this to describe my first real encounter with God’s love. The fear, the doubts, the courage to step out and believe….taking the chance by coming out of my years of religious hiding, opening my heart and finding overwhelming joy and bliss and peace and contentment beyond my wildest dreams. This song beautifully expresses all these things about God’s undying love that beckons us.

The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. (Jer.31:3 NKJV)

All of these things reflect and teach us about love; about the Lover of our Soul. But He won’t just love us for another thousands years; His undying love for you and me transcends time itself.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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17 Responses to Love, beauty, art, and awe

  1. tildeb says:

    I think this interpretation is yet another all too typical theft by the religious in the service of bolstering their faith-based beliefs rather than honestly and truthfully recognizing the ubiquity of human biology in action that can transcend such a partisan interpretation you have introduced. Unless and until you can indicate with evidence that these profoundly moving emotional experiences are in some way related to or linked with what you CLAIM is evidence for the divine, you’re simply and arbitrarily assigning them to be related or linked. This is an error of assumption that comes from you and has nothing to do with awe, wonder, and love and the emotions they evoke. In effect, you are ‘stealing’ a human response created within the human brain and assigning it to be evidence for something else. You are attempting to co-opt human experiences of awe and wonder and love to serve your theistic interests. All of these human experiences as far as I can tell have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything other than this ability by human biology to produce them and our desire to express and share these wonderful aspects of being human with others. Why you feel obligated to import religion into and make these about some god is just another tedious example of ever-so typical religious thievery.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks for your opinion, Tildeb. But you are wrong if you think I’m trying to prove anything to you. Believe whatever you want, but just know that it takes just as much faith to believe it’s all just biology as it does to intuit that there’s might be more to it.

      • tildeb says:

        Believe what I want? Hardly. Faith? Come on. This is what reality shows us is the case.

        You are talking about shared human experiences but attributing them to something else. Well, simply and honestly put, if there’s something ‘behind’ this shared human experience other than our shared human biology, then by all means demonstrate how you allow reality to make this link you are claiming is behind it… other than just moving your mouth and making yet another empty religious claim that steals our shared humanity from our humanity and assigns it to some partisan version of Oogity Boogity. If you can’t do that, Mel, then all you have is your faith that it is so, whereas I can allow reality to speak on my behalf, that these human experiences come from our shared human biology. No magic, no faith in something ‘beyond’, needed or wanted. And you can’t just steal it and assign it to your god without reducing people’s humanity and the responsibility we each have for our own and the welfare of others. You should be held to account for that theft and called on it when you do. That’s the moral thing to do. You should already know that stealing – even according to your scripture – is wrong. I’m surprised you don’t but not surprised that doing so on behalf of exalting your god is rationalized as just fine and dandy. But you wouldn’t do that if you held yourself accountable first to you and not some foreign agent you think you have a pipeline to living and acting ‘behind’ reality and wanting you to steal things on his behalf to make himself appear real in place of awe, in place of wonder, in place of love. You seem unconcerned that such a god seems to have to stoop to being equivalent to a synonym.

        • Mel Wild says:

          And all you are doing is taking a human experience and separating it from its source, denying that it has any context other than our biology, which you cannot prove anymore than I can prove God by these experiences. So, yes, yours is a faith statement, based on your worldview. I could just as easily say you are stealing from the God who made us this way in the place.

          Look, we can argue all day long on this and get nowhere. But I, for one, am not going to “thieve” from the One in whom we live and move and have our being, by denying His influence and flattening the world down to chemical reactions. Especially, when that reductionist worldview is ontologically incoherent. Of course, that’s my opinion, my faith, but you would do well to tone down your intellectual snobbery, that you know better, and give room for opinions you don’t share.

          So, I would say the exact same thing to you about taking a moral responsibility to be honest about the possibility that there’s more to it than science can prove.

          Look, Tildeb, we all get that you don’t like it. We’ve already been down this road together. You are free to disagree and I am free to end the conversation here. I do wish you the best.

  2. LOL! “Attempting to co-opt human experiences,” now are you Mel? Sorry, I just had to laugh. That’s really quite funny! Reminds me of a couple of small children one day, one accusing the other of stealing and “copying me.” Okay, so what’s she doing? “She’s breathing.” Ai yi yi.

    I’m pretty sure you can’t “steal the human experience.” There’s always more than enough to go around. 🙂

    I’m not going to write a thesis today, but I assure everyone the “ubiquity of human biology” just does not explain or contain the truth and beauty of a close encounter of the God kind. Some of our romantic inclinations can have a partial biological explanation, but sacrificial love? To lay down your life for another? Totally irrational and counterintuitive.

    Glad you wrote this post, Mel. Our pursuits of truth and beauty (and love) can be really fascinating. I’m not an artist, but I have certainly felt that need to create, that need to reflect our Creator, to try to speak a heavenly language we all know we are hearing. It’s kind of funny, beavers don’t get up in the morning and decide they need to pile logs up and create a dam of truth and beauty, but men sure do! You can see it in our art and architecture and music. Even our gardening sometimes!

    • Mel Wild says:

      “…I assure everyone the “ubiquity of human biology” just does not explain or contain the truth and beauty of a close encounter of the God kind.”

      Yeah, but they sure do try don’t they. LOL! It’s more arguing about things they don’t (want to) understand, “anything-but-God” scientistic snobbery, addressing the heart with the head, like it’s even the same language. If we can’t test it in a lab, it’s not “real,” case closed (like our mind), as if we even have a handle on what “real” is anyway. Of course, we think we do. 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for your points about our innate need to create, IB. You and I would say that this is because we were made in the image of a creator. Like Father, like child, we are mimetic creatures. But what do we superstitious folk know. 🙂

  3. Pingback: How Christendom gave us Secularism | In My Father's House

  4. Nan says:

    Tildeb vs. Mel: Two points of view from different sides of the fence. Who has the inside track? Joint response: I do! I do!

    • ColorStorm says:

      Really nan? The big goon Goliath of Gath representing a thousand tildebs….

      Or little David, a man with a larger God, whose word was then good as it ever shall be.

      Me? I’m going with the obvious where there in no contest. God and scripture.

      The false gods of science and astronomy which are clueless as to what lies a few feet under the oceans, yet pretend to ‘know’ or ‘see’ what lies in the measureless heavens, what a joke, and an affront to common sense.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Yes, no contest. I’m going with God who gave us the laws of nature in the first place, and the wisdom to have such a thing as scientific inquiry. We’ll all see who’s right in the end, anyway. I’m fine with that. 🙂

    • tildeb says:

      False equivalency, Nan.

      Mel claims that his god backs up his point of view, for which he can offer no evidence of such support. I point out that makes an assumption he is importing.

      I claim to use reality to arbitrate my belief about humanity and assign these attributes Mel has selected for which all of us have much evidence comes from and can be directly affected and impeded by our biology. This evidence is overwhelming.

      This is why I correct Mel that this isn’t an equivalent belief each of utilizes but from opposite side a some faith-based fence but one differentiated by superstitious belief and assumption on Mel’s side versus facts from reality, knowledge about biology, and reason on the other. That I enunciate the latter doesn’t mean I am the one doing the arbitrating here; that job properly belongs to reality.

      • Mel Wild says:

        Translation…whatever disagrees with Tildeb is false and not real. Sorry, Tildeb, you’re not the end of all wisdom.

        Nan, I really don’t care who thinks they have the inside track. This post wasn’t intended to start a debate. It’s pointless to argue with people who have closed minds. All you get is their disrespectful and arrogant mocking. That’s why I moved on from wasting my time with this exercise in futility. I think it’s time Tildeb moved on.

  5. Nan says:

    Mel, I would debate your comment that you “really don’t care who thinks they have the inside track.” It’s more than apparent that you do care or you wouldn’t respond as you do. But that’s neither here nor there. I’m just a fly-by. Have a nice week. 🙂

    • Mel Wild says:

      Let me clarify. I DO care about what I believe and I don’t like people coming here with their disrespectful and condescending remarks. I’ve had enough of that over the last two years. I have moved on. They should too. But I truly am not trying to win an argument here. This post was not an argument. It was for people who have an open mind. Take it or leave it.

      You have a nice week, too.

  6. You know, that’s really interesting. I was having a really hard period in my life. One day, my alarm came on in the morning and this song (the one you mentioned in your post) was playing on the radio and I had the same thoughts you did. Whenever I hear it, I also think about God and how He loves me.

    • Mel Wild says:

      That’s wonderful. Thanks for sharing that.

      • Yes, I remember that day like it was yesterday. I think it was the first time that I had heard that song. It gently woke me up and the words brought tears to my eyes. Isn’t it wonderful how God uses small things like that to encourage us? And I know that He does that all the time; we just have to stay close to Him to realize it. Thanks so much for the reminder!

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