There it was.
I couldn’t believe it.
We’d been driving for ninety minutes already, desperately trying to escape the notorious 110-degree Arizona heat.
Thirty straight days of scorching desert temps had us practically soul sick, so we packed a bag, loaded the stroller. We threw diapers, pack n’ play, cheerios, kids, and my bulging third-trimester belly into our Ford F-150 and headed north.
North to the San Francisco Peaks of Flagstaff. North to an elevation of 7,000+ feet. North to an extended weekend filled with morning mountain hikes, rainy afternoons and chilly evenings. Oh, it was a place where we could breathe.
Where we could all breathe real oxygen again.
Now, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. Not in the way of lasting reprieve. Even Flagstaff can get warm in August, and the last few months of pregnancy, well, they’re about as comfortable as duck-taping a watermelon to your abdomen and ever so carefully keeping its sticky goodness from escaping down your swollen skin.
Nevertheless, as we rounded the corner right at the base of Mt. Humphreys, I discovered something that was lasting.
Something life-giving and order-restoring. In fact, it brought such unexpected soul reprieve I still think about it to this day.
In the shadow of that enormous mountain stood a field. A field untouched and uncultivated by man that had birthed thousands upon thousands of glorious, sun-soaked sunflowers.
A breathtaking sight.
A soul-awakening sight.
Their petals radiated a brilliant mixture of buttery saffron with vibrant fuchsia centers. They were saying, “Welcome! Welcome to real beauty.” Welcome to what God can really do. The green of their leaves stretched high on each thick stem. Like a neon sign, they declared, “See me? See this beauty?” It’s glory and grace and grandeur. It’s that story you’ve never written no matter how hard you try.
There were so many too.
The sheer number of those sunflowers packed tightly together without a single wilt or sour. Words don’t do it justice. An army of radiant resistance, they were. A multitude of blossoming defiant splendor.
We immediately stopped the truck.
I wobbled out of the passenger seat and stared dumbfounded. I soaked in the beauty of it all. I inhaled the magnificence. The wonder. Because what else can you do when faced with the awe-inspiring creative work of God but breathe it down deep into your beauty-deprived, spiritual lungs?
That’s what beauty does, after all.
Beauty for beauty’s sake.
Beauty that isn’t manipulative. Beauty that isn’t trying too hard. It isn’t packaged with some underlying agenda or some hook or man-made scheme. Instead it just exists. For itself and for its Creator with no repercussions to what others think, how others feel, or what others do.
That kind of beauty always makes us stop. To take heed and silence ourselves, to reflect. Like the clapping of gentle waves against a rocky shoal or the whipping of wind up the side of a canyon cliff, God’s beauty impedes us while at the same time wooing us into the realization that more exists than us. Than what we can do, what we can somehow achieve or accomplish. Rather, something greater is at play in this life. A purpose beyond the mere functionality of things.
To be honest, before that day I struggled with beauty. With beauty for beauty’s sake. With the wastefulness of it, the impracticality of it. In fact, I told my husband countless times never to buy me flowers.
What I didn’t realize then was my struggle went much deeper than flowers. My inability to accept beauty for beauty’s sake was because I couldn’t accept a God who could actually be wasteful. I don’t mean throwing away still-good things, and I don’t mean treating something of value carelessly. No, I’m talking about the wasteful act of lavishing, heaping, swamping, smothering, overwhelming us with such extravagant love that any philosophy of functionality no longer applies.
Instead we’re left to seek out His higher purpose of relationship. We are left to concede to an entirely different set of criteria for how to live our lives. In the light of that kind of God-ordained extravagance, “what a waste” becomes “what a taste.”
What a taste of heaven come down! What a taste of God’s overwhelming, incomparable mercy! What a jolt of such overflowing grace that it reaches past our do, past the roles we must play, the jobs we must do.
It reaches down into our who.
That’s what God’s beauty does for us. That’s what that wasteful, taste-full mountainside field of sunflowers did for me.
The psalmist David tells us to “[t]aste and see that the Lord is good.” And Jesus Himself says to “[c]onsider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Psalm 34:8; Luke 12:27).
Both of these passages ironically come packaged in the context of worry and struggle. Of focusing on our lack, on our inabilities, our own insufficiencies.
“Tasting” and “considering” God’s beauty, however, pulls us out of that stupor and into a place of rest. Into a place where we can breathe again. A place where our who is simply a child of God. A budding and blossoming work of His own beauty ourselves.
So, take a moment and see beauty this summer.
See God’s beauty for beauty’s sake, and let it propel you to step past the tasks of today, beyond the uncertainty of tomorrow and beyond what you have pressing on you to do.
Instead let Him remind you that your who is enough. Enough for God to love lavishly. Enough for Jesus to redeem and forgive. Enough for Him to heap upon you grace. Grace upon grace upon grace (John 1:16).
And enough for you to come.
To come and taste of Jesus. Because, oh, what a beautiful life He’s “wasted” for you.