Temporary Beauty

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By Catherine Gilmore

I have an obsession with permanence. When something is good and beautiful, I don’t want it to change or end. I want to preserve it and hold it and keep it. Now this is not necessarily a bad thing, after all, our hearts are ordered towards the eternal and we long for true goodness that lasts. But the temptation to keep things unchanging can be dangerous when our longing for the infinite becomes entangled in temporal goods, evanescent experiences, and material possessions. 

When I see a gorgeous sun setting over snowcapped mountains, I breathe a sigh of satisfaction and think, “Why can’t this last forever?” When I travel to the coast of a foreign country and spend the day eating seafood with strangers who have taken me in as family, I wonder why I can’t just stop time and live in the beauty forever. When I spend the day drinking red wine and discussing the morality of rational beings on the grassy slopes of a city park, I wish that the weekdays ahead were not so near. 

I’m not the only one, the Apostles had this problem too. When they witnessed the glorious beauty of the Transfiguration, Peter wanted to stay up on the mountain top. He told Jesus that he would “put up three shelters” (Matthew 17:4) so that they could all just park it right there and not have to ever move. They could live in the beauty and never descend the mountain. But after the glory of the Transfiguration, they did have to leave. They had to walk down the mountain. It’s important to note that our Savior walked with them down Mount Tabor, He went with them back into the ordinary paths of everyday living. And that’s the kind of Savior He is, He allows us to experience moments of resplendent bliss, but He also walks with us along the ordinary dusty roads of life. He is with us on the mountain tops and He is with us in those unremarkable moments of hidden grace.  

Our lives are designed to move forward, through the moments of radiant beauty and the moments of ordinary mundanities. We are not made to stay in one moment forever, no matter how much irrepressible joy that moment is filled with. And perhaps, just perhaps, the reason that certain moments are so beautiful is because we know they are going to end. We know that the sun will set, we know that our transatlantic flight home is already booked, we know that the bottle of Cabernet will be finished, and we know that we must eventually drive home and prepare for the Monday ahead. But this makes us appreciate these rare moments of incredible beauty all the more. Oscar Wilde once said, “Some things are more precious because they don’t last long.” It is precisely the ephemeral nature of these moments that make them so valuable. We know that some kinds of beauty are temporary and that is perfectly alright. 

So let us enjoy each moment. Let us deeply and fully appreciate sunsets and travel and seafood and red wine and delightful conversations and dear friends. Let us rejoice that we live in the present and let us see the unique and exquisite beauty of each passing moment. Let us not try to capture or contain or cling to anything in this world. Let us hold each adventure, experience, and person that God gives us with hands wide open. For our lives are strings of mostly ordinary, but sometimes extraordinary, moments of grace on the way to the ultimate and unchanging glory of God. While our wild and restless hearts wait for eternal rest in Him, let them take delight in each little bit of temporary beauty that He delights to give us. 

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)