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Begin with Beauty
As I mentioned briefly last week, Timothy Patitsas challenges us to think about the order and priority we give to truth, beauty, and goodness. Even the way I habitually think and write those three betrays my learned bias: they always flow from my mind and fingers in that order (or sometimes truth, goodness and beauty; but truth is always first). However, Patitsas always lists beauty first, for a simple biblical reason: men and women are saved when the eyes of faith behold the beauty of Christ crucified and risen (e.g. Gal. 3:1). Trusting in Jesus and the spiritually-discerned beauty of the cross, the believer is then filled with goodness and truth (Rom. 15:14).
Why does this order matter? As Patitsas demonstrates, there are many possible implications and applications, and he dives into deep explorations of architecture, urban planning, human gender, and social justice. But he starts and ends his book focusing on healing from trauma, and that is my interest here.
The Holy Spirit uses many bodily metaphors for our spiritual life in Christ: regeneration/rebirth, the bestowal of a new spiritual sense, dead spiritual bodies coming to life. As metaphors, we could say that Scripture takes a “body first” approach to sanctification. Our spiritual senses must be quickened and healed so that we can see, hear and taste the cross as beautiful (1 Cor. 1:20-25, 2:10-16).
Trauma healing is like that: body first, which is to say, beauty first. Although much of Western psychology and soul care, Christian or otherwise, has wrestled with a left-brain imbalance toward disembodied hyper-rationality, trauma specialists remind us that psychological and spiritual wounds leave just as much shrapnel in the body as the mind. The body keeps the score, as Bessel van der Kolk puts it. The body has been marred, even when no one, not even the survivor, can see the cuts. Healing must first come to the body so that the mind and spirit can wade into the dangerous waters of troubled memory.
For trauma survivors that healing starts with safety. Safety is a beautiful thing. It is the reason David sang to God in Psalm 27:4,
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.
Why did he long to gaze upon the beauty of Yahweh? Psalm 27:5 answers,
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.
Quote from Timothy Patitsas
Come to yourself — in the sense of remembering who you are in Christ. Come to yourself — in the sense of sloughing off the disfigurement of sin that distorts the natural image of God within us. Come to yourself — come to your brother, who is your life, and to Christ, who is your archetype. But also come to yourself — come to the ordinary yet profound beauty that is you in your deepest self, as you are united with Christ.
The Ethics of Beauty, by Timothy Patitsas.
What do you think about the connection between beauty and safety? Here’s another verse to consider in light of the quote above from Patitsas: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:2). Hidden, safe. With Christ, who is Beauty Himself.
Praying for and laboring with you,