"You don’t seem happy, Dad."
She was right. Without looking up, I snapped at my daughter, letting her know how much I had to do as we raced out the door for church on Easter.
It was just a small, ordinary moment. I doubt my kids will be talking about it at lunch after my funeral.
Yet like a movie, our lives are spliced together one scene at a time. In each moment, we’re either conscious of God and the beauty he’s surrounding us with, or, largely oblivious to it all, like I was that morning when the glories of Christ’s resurrection made no difference in how I handled my stress.
When we miss what God is giving in life’s small moments, we quietly but clearly miss our very lives. Like Jacob, we live at the corner of Heaven and Earth but do not know it (Genesis 28:16).
In the weeks since my daughter’s comment, uncomfortable but important questions have flashed through my mind. Where else are we missing God’s beauty in our lives? Why do we miss it? And what can we do about it?
Let’s explore these questions so that we can be fully present to him, others and the blessings he’s giving us.
Whatever we call it - glory, goodness, blessing, grandeur, or majesty - everywhere we look, there is beauty to behold.
The seraphim in Isaiah’s vision put it simply yet comprehensively:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ (Isaiah 6:3)
Paul tells us that God’s nature is ‘clearly perceived… in the things that have been made’ (Romans 1:20).
But if the entire universe is a canvas for God’s grandeur, so often we overlook his brush strokes.
Maybe you can identify with moments like these:
- Our young child wants to play, but we’re distracted by our phones.
- The drive on our commute is filled with rolling hills and homes that belong on greeting cards, but all we can think about is how small and undesirable our own home is in comparison.
- A neighbor smiles and tries to engage us as we head for our car, but we’re too rushed to offer more than a half-hearted "Have a great day."
- We sing worship songs on Sunday morning, but we miss the words because we’re anxious about the sermon we’re about to preach.
- A homeless man tries to catch our attention as we bustle by, but, we reason, he might just be taking advantage of us.
- A student sits down to study for his exam next week, but never considers how what he’s learning reflects God’s character or work in the world.
- We read about God’s stunning, unconditional love for us in Christ despite our sin and rebellion in our devotional time, but our hearts are unmoved.
We can’t notice everything, of course. And over-analyzing something can pull us out of the moment, making it harder to enjoy. But my default is to miss ordinary gifts like these. I’m guessing that’s your tendency, too.
It’s good to start noticing what we’re missing, but it’s not enough.
If we want to notice all the glory and goodness God is sending our way, we need to address the deeper, heart-level issues that cloud our vision.
1. We live busy, overwhelmed lives.
Our lives today are busier than ever. Like Martha, we find it difficult to set good, but lesser, things aside in favor of the very best things (Luke 10:40-41). It’s hard to discern God’s artistry when we’re racing around and overwhelmed. These patterns are often fueled by even deeper issues like finding our value in what we accomplish and a lack of confidence in God’s sovereignty over our lives.
2. We are ungrateful and discontent.
In Romans 1, Paul highlights one of ingratitude’s hidden, lethal side effects: we fail to see what is ‘plain’ and ‘clearly perceived’ about God (Romans 1:19-21). Although Paul is speaking about unbelievers here, Christians are not exempt from this dynamic. To the degree we are ungrateful and discontent, we too miss God’s blessings and, far worse, God himself.
3. We’re full of pride.
Like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, pride causes us think more of ourselves and less of others. We miss the beauty God has placed in others, who become objects of scorn, if we notice them at all. Far more importantly, pride causes us to overlook our desperate need for the grace of the gospel, the crown jewel of the universe.
Three Ways To Notice God’s Beauty And Goodness
Thankfully, God is determined to wake us up from our slumber. He receives honor and praise, and our trust in him grows (Exodus 14:30-31).
At the same time, he calls us to respond. In response to the three barriers above, here are three simple (not easy) ways we can be more attentive to the beauty our Father surrounds us with.
1. Simplify your life.
Like Martha in Jesus’ day, our lives become bloated and overly-caffeinated, leaving little margin to notice God’s blessings, or, God himself. Sanity begins by understanding that spending time with Jesus and his word is more important than anything else, and letting some good, but less important, things go (Luke 10:42). What could you cut from your life?
2. Pursue gratitude and contentment.
Ingratitude and discontentment are like a vortex, pulling us inward. When we remember God’s infinite resources (Psalm 50:10-11) and his ability to redeem absolutely anything (Genesis 50:20), we’re released to notice what God is giving and doing. For example, even during Paul’s imprisonment (Philippians 1:13), his radical contentment in Christ (4:12-13) gave him the spiritual bandwidth to see the advance of the gospel (1:12-14).
3. Cultivate humility.
If pride, i.e. being drunk on self, leads us to miss God’s beauty in others and the gospel, then humility brings a radical sobriety that reorients us to both. Like the tax collector in Luke 18, when we see our depravity and cry out for mercy, we receive and prize God’s forgiveness (see verses 13-14). And that brings a peaceful contentment and rest that frees us to notice all the beauty one heart can handle.
God At Work, One Moment At A Time
Although we’re prone to miss God’s beauty in life’s small moments, God can replace heart dynamics that cloud our vision with new ones that remove the fog. As he renews our hearts, we’re set free to form new patterns that help us notice his presence and work. Scene by scene, God is crafting our lives into stories that reflect his beauty and bend it toward others.