It starts kind of slow, but bear with it. Because, after all, this book is about slowing down enough to recognize God’s reflection in all of creation—as well as in our own creations, as we too reflect the Creator.
My reiteration of the message from Steve DeWitt, senior pastor at Bethel Church in Crown Point, Indiana, is this: We are all creators, created in God’s image. And thus we are all image-bearers, gifted with image-ination. And most of us have lost that sense. But as we learn to recapture it, we also begin to better sense God’s presence around us in everything—even things we may have discounted previously or misused for our own purposes.
“The strength of our longing proves that satisfaction is possible,” DeWitt says. “Our cravings are both a clue and a compliment. They are a clue that the desire was made for no earthly satisfaction and a compliment to the One whose satisfactions consummate our desires.”
That said, the first third or so of the book felt a bit obvious to me (and/or like transcribed sermon notes), and likely could have been condensed. But based on what follows, I suspect DeWitt’s intent was to make the access ramp as wide as possible before ramping things up. And ramp them he does. We find ourselves going from considerable overexposure to the word “wow!” (and my counteruse of the phrase “OK, I get it already!”) to practical suggestions on how to experience that “wow” for ourselves, drawing from sources as diverse and deep as Jonathan Edwards, St. Bonaventure and C.S. Lewis. As we apply the wisdom found here, we learn to use beauty as a catalyst for appreciating and worshiping God.
But the early stuff may not feel as obvious to everyone. If you need convincing, work through DeWitt’s early arguments here. If not, glean as needed. Either way, hang in there until the chapter “Beyond Beauty to Wonder,” because that’s where the book truly gets good. “The experience of beauty does something profound and powerful within the heart and soul of every human being. Beauty creates wonder in us.” And it enables us to encounter The Beautiful One in the following chapter. And if that doesn’t, the next chapter, “An Eye for the Gleaming,” seals the deal:
Every created beauty that we have ever enjoyed in this world is like moonlight. Void of any comparison, they seem like the best this life has to offer. But through the gospel and the Holy Spirit, we have seen The Beautiful One, Christ…. We used to worship reflections, but through the gospel and the Holy Spirit we discern a better beauty…. Once we discern His glory, however, we enjoy the moonlight of created beauties all the more because they remind us of Him.
But it’s not all inspiration; there’s also work involved. “Sin tilted created beauty toward us. But this is not beauty’s created purpose,” DeWitt says. “Since created beauty speaks of God, our experience of it requires us to swim upstream. Beauty’s source and satisfaction is found in the source, not the self.”
From this point, DeWitt extends his exploration into our own outward expressions and explorations of beauty, addressing the issues of “What is Christian art, and is there even such a thing?” and our attraction to the power of story, which points to The Big Story. The book ends—where else?—with a moving look at the closing chapters of Revelation, where The Big Story, God’s glory and us are at last complete. And still only beginning.
This book will get you on the road to seeing the Beautiful One, who creates all beauty, more fully. And it’ll even get you a ways down that road.