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Waiting for Beauty
Little did I know that the largest living organism on earth is 60 miles from my home. Last weekend my family visited Sequoia National Park which is home to the General Sherman Tree. While estimates have varied over time, the National Park Service currently lists the Sherman Tree as around 2,200 years old, and in 1931 it was dubbed “the largest living thing in the world” on the basis of its total volume of 52,513 cu ft.
While taking in these amazing creations of God, what competed for my amazement was how quickly we were walking through the sequoia groves. It took a while for me to wake up to the silliness of speed gazing at creations that predate the incarnation of Christ and grow in radius at about a millimeter per year. Remembering Treebeard’s admonishment, “Now, don't be hasty, master Meriadoc,” I realized that I had not come prepared to practice the appropriate spiritual discipline: meditation.
Beauty and meditation are like tea leaves and hot water. Little will come from trying to enjoy the one without the other. But put them together, and wonderful things can happen. That is, as long as you can wait.
Waiting seems to be what the Sherman Tree has done best. Can you imagine making one millimeter of progress per year? Not a likely pitch from your gym’s personal trainer. Still, how about one millimeter per year for…two thousand years? A million? How about growing closer to Jesus one millimeter per year into eternity, world without end?
Quote from Edmund Calamy
Divine meditation is a mighty help to beget in us a love to God; for as it is with a picture, that hath a curtain drawn over it, though the picture be never so beautiful, you cannot see the beauty of it till the curtain be drawn aside; to an unconsiderating, an unmeditating Christian, God is as a picture with a curtain drawn over it, he cannot see the beauty of God, but meditation draws the curtain, and lets us in to behold all the beauty that is in God; and he that beholds the beauty of God, cannot but love God.
From Mind to Heart: Christian Meditation Today, by Peter Toon.
How much time can you spend gazing at a work of beauty? Can you push yourself to wait in front of beauty for 20 minutes? It seems arbitrary, but it’s a recurring recommendation, whether Curt Thompson suggesting 20-30 minutes contemplating Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, or Peter Toon advising “we cannot truly meditate [on Scripture] in less than 20 minutes.”
Praying for and laboring with you,