In this age of technology and minimalism, it is easy to miss and/or minimize the importance of beauty. However, beauty is an essential piece of the human experience that orients us to God. As humans, we are gifted with the ability to create and appreciate beauty. Doing so is an integral part of our humanity and simultaneously nurtures our relationship with God.

“We are designed to love truth, beauty and goodness, which are attributes of God.”

(The Grace of Enough, p. 40).

During my childhood, I had a very narrow conception of beauty. I confined it to traditional artistic endeavors, such as drawing and painting (none of which I was good at, by the way), and figured it was really only contained within art museums. As I became older, this conception broadened into an understanding and appreciation of nature, architecture and sacred music.  However, as a millennial who embraces minimalism, I frequently catch myself thinking of beauty as a mere luxury. That all changed when I read The Grace of Enough.

The Grace of Enough (TGE) is a marvelous book by Catholic blogger and podcaster Haley Stewart. In the book, Stewart relates her family’s radical decision to uproot from Florida to a farm in Texas so her husband could pursue an agricultural internship. The story is a wonderful account of minimalism and simplicity, rooted in the joy of the Gospel. Chapter Four is titled “Rediscovering Beauty in the Transcendent” and was the inspiration for this article.

As Stewart explains, beauty is essential because it points to God. The creation and appreciation of beauty is a constant reminder of our own creation, and our role in the world. We were created for the sake of beauty itself and also to enhance its presence in the world. Stewart explains, “We were made to undertake the task of what J.R.R Tolkien calls ‘sub-creation,’ a practice by which we use imagination and art to build a secondary world that reflects God’s creation of our world.” (TGE, p. 45). The creation and appreciation of beauty inevitably expresses our relationship with our Creator and points us back to God.

“When we embrace this role of sub-creator, we can contribute to the beauty of God’s world.”

(TGE, p. 45)

Whether we’re artists or not, each day presents us with the opportunity to create beauty in our homes and workplaces, which meshes with our God-given gifts. Opportunities such as cooking, gardening, journaling and decorating have the capacity to nourish our souls and bring us closer to God.

Whether we’re artists or not, each day presents us with the opportunity to create beauty in our homes and workplaces.

As a newlywed and new homeowner, I found my home replete with opportunities to create beauty last year. I had spent the last eight years living in either a rented apartment or a dorm and never had the opportunity to make the space my own in a permanent way (without losing my security deposit). Now, I finally had the opportunity to create a simple yet beautiful home for me, my husband and our future children. I was pleasantly surprised at the degree to which I enjoyed finding furniture for our home and decorating it with our pictures and artwork.

We can also create beauty in our workplaces. There is beauty in our work products, our relationships with co-workers, and our interactions with clients and guests. For example, I find great joy and beauty in my morning conversation with my supervisor. We both arrive at 8:00 a.m., well before the hustle and bustle of the courthouse begins. For the first thirty minutes or hour, especially on Mondays, we relate our activities over the weekend or the night before, and we talk about the news. I like to believe we both look forward to it and envision it as precious time to get to know one another and nurture our relationship.

“When we allow ourselves to notice God’s creation, we see his fingerprints everywhere.”

(TGE, p. 44)

We don’t have to be constantly involved in creating beauty in order to be fully human. Rather, we can appreciate beauty in our everyday lives and be reminded of God’s presence. For example, we can take a hike or a walk and marvel at the beauty of God’s created world. Even sitting in your backyard or on your front porch and soaking up the sun’s rays can facilitate an encounter with beauty.

My husband and I spent the Fourth of July in southeastern Missouri with his family. We flew into St. Louis, and we had to drive 2.5 hours to reach his childhood home. Though I had made the drive a number of times, I had forgotten just how beautiful Interstate 55 was. Surrounded by green pastures and bountiful crops, the drive was stunning. I marveled at the beauty of it for the duration of the drive and immediately felt at peace surrounded by God’s creation.

Our experience of beauty does not have to be limited to these somewhat traditional experiences. In the workplace, we can appreciate beauty through a meaningful conversation with a co-worker or an inspirational podcast during a commute or lunch break. If we keep our eyes open for beauty, we will certainly find it in abundance.

If we keep our eyes open for beauty, we will certainly find it in abundance.

Just as we thirst for food and drink, we thirst to create and appreciate beauty. While we may be tempted to disregard beauty as superfluous or an indulgence, beauty plays an integral role in fostering and nurturing our relationship with God and with His creation. Let us create it, appreciate it and make it part of our worship of Him.

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Michelle Mowry-Willems

Michelle Mowry-Willems is a lawyer currently working as a law clerk in Reno, Nevada. She and her husband David are newlyweds who met on Catholic Match (yes, it works!), and they are both avid runners who enjoy running together every day. Michelle is passionate about all things related to reading, coffee, and cooking, and is currently obsessed with her new Instant Pot.

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