The splish of a dainty waterfall is echoing off the marble floors as I write here in the old-world luxury of the Broadmoor. It is outrageously fun to act like I own this five-star hotel. I simply come for a day, buy coffee and chocolate, and wander the plush floors and art-bedecked walls. I’m on my third lobby; this one has just the spark of a fire, a gigantic bowl of tulips, and the hush of mid-afternoon. I ought to be writing my speech for the conference (I’ll be on a platform giving it one week from today) but I have squeezed the poor sponge of my brain dry of every drop of intellect. There’s just none left. So here I am. Not that I don’t try to bring intellect to my blog, but, oh well.

However, I do have something to say at the end of this brain-straining day. It’s pretty much a copy and paste from my speech, but it’s what I’ve wanted to post for awhile anyway. I noticed just the other day that someone left a comment on my “about” page challenging me in defining myself as an idealist. As it happens, my talk this year is all about beauty, ideals really, and how living them out pictures God’s reality in the midst of a fallen world. Thus, the whole issue of ideals and beauty have been on my mind and I want to answer the challenge that was made with a portion of what I wrote today.

To the person who left the post, I can only say I guess I failed to adequately communicate what I mean by ideals. But let that be remedied with this post for all time. To begin with, I wouldn’t want anyone to think, as the commenter said, that I believe ideals to be just about smelling roses. Roses are gorgeous creations, but a careless amusement with pretty things isn’t what I mean by being an idealist. In fact, I mean the opposite. I mean that most of life consists of dusty, normal days often punctuated by sickness (that no doctor can diagnose), thorny relationships (especially those involving family), general struggle (flat tires, money, irritation) and loneliness. I am keenly aware that my love of beauty is equaled by my total inability to force my life to be beautiful. The world and myself are profoundly broken. My natural impulse in the midst of this is to a quick discouragement that seeps into every vein of my being. It ends in a dark numbness of heart that leaves me incapable of either seeing beauty or allowing it to teach me to hope.

To seek beauty then, in the midst of the fallenness, is to have faith in a reality beyond what I can see. Despite the brokenness around me, my heart still percieves glimmers of what was meant to be, echoes from the shattered gladness of new creation. I see the remnants of paradise, slivered shards of ideal beauty glittering in the corners of the earth, gleaming out from art and music and story. I am aware that there is some force of beauty calling me to look beyond the brokenness and hope for redemption. And that’s where idealism comes in. To me, being an idealist means treasuring my deepest desires for love, or beauty, or peace while living in a world that destroys them. It means fighting tooth and nail, day by day, to hold fast to a belief in an ultimate goodness that is coming to redeem everything back to its original goodness. And to live ideals, well, that means living in such a way that hope is visible, faith is enfleshed in color and sound and form. Ideals are the most glorious when they illumine the ordinary, transforming despair into a colorful hope.

An idealistic life, an incarnational way of living is all about crafting a picture of that for which I hope right in the smack middle of messy, ordinary days. It means lighting candles and putting on music when I really just want to despair. It means laughing at housework instead of screaming (which I usually really want to do). It means opening my eyes to God’s creativity and beauty in the earth when busyness could easily distract me and rob me of wonder. It means reaching out to needy people and unresponsive friends again and again. It means taking the musty clay of dusty, messy days, and molding them into hours of laughter, feasts, music-making and memories.

When it comes right down to it, everything I believe in lies just beyond my touch, why shouldn’t my ideals as well? My love of Christ drives me to live in a certain way, compels me to picture my hope in my words, my actions, the set of my face as I encounter the daily world. I may not grasp the kingdom of God on earth, but I picture its reality. So with my ideals of beauty. I know that God created his earth with its startling beauty to reflect the richness of existence he intended for us. Though the world is fallen, the picture of goodness is still there, and the promise of it being restored is the centerpoint of my hope. Being an idealist isn’t about living a perfect life, it’s about hope in a perfect God. Hope is the essence of idealism.

So. That’s about all I can manage for the moment. I think I’ve been philosophizing for way too long today!



Filed under Musings, Thoughts Thunk Much Too Late At Night, Uncategorized

16 responses to “Ideals

  1. Henok Minas

    Hi Sara

    Many thanks for replying to my question. It is so inspiring to read your words…Yes, ideals must be all about hope and hope in a perfect God. “Only a Christian has a right to hope, for only he has the power of God to give substance to his hope…Earth is bearable because there is hope. Hell is unendurable because all hope has fled. Heaven is eternal beatitude because hope is there in radiant fulfillment.” A.W. Tozer…

    You can only see the remnants of paradise here as you said it well. But the brevity of life sometimes reminds me of living for God and for others as the most important thing here on earth….going out of my comfort zone and serve others in humility and love. Heaven is just ahead of us and the earth needs our ‘salt and light’. Say something about the brevity of life, please.

    I found A.W. Tozer’s writings to be so good. I suggest them to you. These are the links for the papers he wrote on Hope –

    Let me hear what you have felt about his papers.


  2. geektechnique


    I completely agree. I find it sad that so many evangelicals are interested in the “end times” and “tribulation”, but don’t respect art, which points to the ultimate regeneration and resurrection. One of the reasons I love art is that, as a Christian, the contemplation that arises from encountering art leads me to wonder at the complete otherness of God in contrast to our broken states.

    It is one of my prayers that in the coming years Christians will begin to rediscover the arts. If you look at the whole of Christian history, of which our present age is but a small blip, art, instead of being feared and mocked, was revered and encouraged by the church.

    Perhaps one of the reasons this “New Iconoclasm” has taken place is the mindset of modernity that “all can be reasoned away”, “logic will prevail”, “there is no mystery”… Well, that is great if you are trying to quantify how many orange stones are in a mosaic, but it doesn’t apply very well to the pursuit of understanding the deeper meaning. Sadly, I believe the church has given into this mindset (religiously). But Christianity isn’t a religion, it isn’t a bullet point theology , it is a way of life, and life is messy.

    I think that wonder is an excellent form of worship. Praising God by saying “I have no clue. You are too mysterious to understand, completely other.” This is the realm of art, of the unquantifiable, of the mysterious, the subtle shades of meaning that has the power to expand the way we think and change the way we view the ordinary. As I said, sadly we evangelicals are slow to jump to mystery and afraid of what we cannot prove. But if we could prove it, it really wouldn’t be worth noticing would it? God can’t be “proved” or “understood”, and if He could He wouldn’t be God.

    Complete understanding is not a requirement for appreciation.

    Thank you for this post and keep up the excellent work!
    Soli Deo Gloria!

  3. geektechnique

    PS. That last paragraph gave me the chills. Excellent.

  4. geektechnique

    PPS. Your last paragraph of course, not mine. lol

  5. This is a very exciting posting, Sarah. And great comments, too. Ryan, what you said is strong and impressive. This theme is a large part of what I’ve been working to impart through my preaching and activity choices over the years. Keep living it, celebrate the search, and don’t be too discouraged when most of the church chooses different priorities.

    Thank you for writing.

  6. Loy

    Sarah, I think your definition of Christian ideals is one of the best I’ve read… poetic, poignant, exquisite, excellent!

    Thank you!

    Linked your site. Blessings!

  7. Sarah

    Hey everyone! Thanks so very much for your insightful and encouraging comments, you are really stirring up tons of excitement and new thoughts. I love what you have to say.

    Henok – thanks for responding. I’m glad it answered your questions, you really did get me to thinking and it was great! I look forward to reading those Tozer papers in the next few days. Thanks for the links.

    Ryan – hello again! I agree with whole heart and soul and every other bit of me with what you are saying. I can’t count the number of discussions I’ve had about the dire need for a rekindling of beauty and mystery in the church. I remember the first time I attended an Anglican church I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the liturgy, there was a sense of mystery and transcendence that I had never experienced in church before. I don’t know how I would believe in God without beauty. I’ve been through a sort of gauntlet of very rationalistic, systematic theology this year that nearly did me in. It’s taken a lot of George MacDonald and Madeleine L’Engle to revive me, but at this end of things, I am passionate about making the beauty and mystery of Christ real to people’s hearts. Thanks for your insightful thoughts… I’d love to read more.

    Steve – wonderful to hear from you! You have a unique perspective on all this from your position within the church. I think it’s greatly exciting that you weave this theme of mystery and beauty into your ministry and life. I wish there were more pastors like you. Do you feel that you are generally met with interest an agreement or skepticism?

    Loy – thanks for the lovely comment! I took a quick glance at your blog and loved the quotes and pictures. I’ll definitely be back. Thanks for reading.

  8. Pingback: Engaging Both Heart and Mind « Thoughts and Deeds

  9. So well said. I love the “itinerant” part of your blog name as much as the “idealist” part – it implies you are open and growing, as our ideals should move us and change us. And I appreciate Ryan’s comment about “complete understanding not required for appreciation.” I don’t want a God only big enough for me to comprehend.

    I am always refreshed when I visit here.

  10. Melody

    Your writings inspire me to think on a higher level, and to use words I normally do not. Thank you.

  11. Sarah, you said:

    “I think it’s greatly exciting that you weave this theme of mystery and beauty into your ministry and life….Do you feel that you are generally met with interest an agreement or skepticism?”

    It really is a mix of responses. Most people can put up with it in small doses, some even being intrigued and inspired a little bit; if I do it too much they start getting antsy for something more concrete and “standard”. A small segment of folks seem to think it’s strange and indecipherable. And a different, even smaller, segment of people take it in like it’s the best thing since air.

  12. My lovely Niece,

    I am sitting at work on a half night shift (off at 3:30 am) and I have read your “philosophizing” at least eight times and each time you have carried me to new thoughts completely out of the realm of my present stark reality.

  13. Jo

    Oh Sarah, reading your deep, inspiring thoughts is such a lovely way to pass the time. The Lord has marvelous plans in store for you, and surely there is something great for you to do for His kingdom; surely your works will accomplish more than you’ll ever know. I pray His hand of blessing will be upon your life, and that He will continue to inspire your readers. You ARE a writer, Sarah!

  14. I agree completely!

    Life is hard but it is our choice to surround ourselves with everyday beauty. 🙂 What a great post.

    I have stopped expecting perfect days but instead I look for His Beauty in each day, his Peace in each challenge.

    (My son just called to tell me the car has died and must be towed to our mechanic… sigh.) On the other hand, I thank God it stopped in the college parking lot and not at a busy highway intersection!

  15. Wonderfully put Sarah. Keep writing!

  16. I love your writing. It is the essence of beauty. I have always been drawn to the artsy side of things and this blog is wonderful to me. I linked to it from your mom’s itakejoy blog. I wondered, if you don’t mind very much, could I link your blog on my own?


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