Re-envisioning Beauty

Don’t you find it frustrating when you can’t agree on whether something is beautiful or not? Recently, my husband and I were trawling Craigslist, on the hunt for a new-to-us bedframe and chest of drawers for our bedroom. If you’ve ever done this or something similar, with a spouse, sibling, or housemate, it won’t surprise you to know that it took us a while to find something we both liked. We’d ping each other with links to things we each liked, only to be met with “meh”, or “eugh, no way!” from the other person. Our priorities and tastes were different, and what we recognised as beautiful and desirable often clashed.  

How we assign beauty and desirability, whether it’s to furniture or the sort of neighborhoods we want to live in, is shaped and formed by everything from our personalities and passions, to our lifetime of experiences and associations. You would think this would create space for a lot of different beautiful things to be celebrated in our communities. But far too often, the opposite is true. The loudest, wealthiest, most well connected voices call something beautiful, and that is what gets celebrated and created. Other voices, other aesthetics, are drowned out, ignored, or dismissed. 

As Tapestry Church seeks to be a community that celebrates and creates beauty in our stories, in our lives, and in our neighborhoods, we recognize the need to be careful:

  • Careful to do the work to understand what influences what we call “beautiful” and how those influences might cause us to dismiss what others call beautiful.

  • Careful to listen and learn from those whose voices that have historically been silenced or dismissed, even if that’s our own voices that have been dismissed, and we need to listen to and learn from our own beautiful, worthy selves.

  • Careful, and bold, to elevate those voices, even in the face of the cost to ourselves. 

The Bible tells us over and over again that God is a God who celebrates and creates beauty in places that many of us would never expect to see it, or would even bother to go and look for it. Jesus assigned beauty, value and worthiness to the children that his disciples dismissed, when he joyfully gathered them to himself. Jesus assigned beauty, value and worthiness to the criminal on the cross in response to his feeble, desperate faith. Jesus assigned beauty, value and worthiness to Mary Magdalene, a woman, when he appeared to her after his resurrection and made her the first apostle. He elevated beauty that others would usually dismiss or ignore. And he calls and empowers us to do the same.

Catherine Evans-Smith