When we see traditional beauty, it can be pretty easy to see God in it. Mountain vistas, sunsets at the beach, fields of wheat and grain during harvest, and meadows of blooming flowers are all reminders of the intricate and glorious world that our Creator has built.
When sin was introduced into the world, destruction befell many of the beauties of the world. Seals covered in oil, roadkill, and the plants that were so beautiful being manufactured into heroin are just some of the ways that nature has been perverted into darkness. There is, however, a contingent of us stranger people, myself included, that like to find beauty in the darker aspects of life. From lighter subjects such as gothic architecture to more abstract such as desolate buildings, I have always found myself attracted to alternative sources of beauty. Today’s devotional is not so much examples of things that are dark that I find beautiful, but more of a devotional on how I see God in all things, even the darkness.
A while back, I wrote on how I believe aspects like greed are not additive, but subtractive. The basis for this belief is the idea that God lacks nothing. If He lacks nothing, how can he lack greed? I was left to conclude that greed had a negative value and thus did not constitute as a property, rather, a lack of a property. Similarly, things like roadkill do not appear like they would have an additive property. There is nothing beautiful about a cute furry animal flattened on the road. God cannot dwell where sin reigns king. However, I believe that we can still see God in the places where He does not dwell.
Wayne Douglas Barlowe is a painter who made a series of paintings in his book called Barlowe’s Inferno. Think of it in the vein of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy or John Milton’s Paradise Lost. In Barlowe’s book, he depicts crazy, shocking, and stunning pictures of his vision of hell. While many might have revulsion or fear looking at the aforementioned picture, I find it beautiful. The sky set ablaze with fire contrasts wonderfully against the burned crags of the ground. The blue and red man-beasts walk with a look of blankness on their eyes. I find it interesting that their riders are ever so slightly purple, as if they are slowly changing color into whatever the man-beasts are. Three freakishly-tall figures stand grasping toward the sky in longing. A dog-like creature licks in the cracks hoping that maybe there might be some water.
While nothing in this picture overtly reveals God’s character, I think it still has a lot to offer that reveals God’s character through the way we express art. Whatever you may think about the merit of this painting, it would be hard to deny that it certainly uses some imagination. This stark scene of a hellish caravan crossing a wasteland shows us the reflection of the human imagination. If our imaginations can create something this off-the-wall, what might God’s imagination create? We are, after all, reflections of our Creator.
The overall meaning behind this devotional is to stress the importance of looking for God in places where He does not seem present. Even when something is dark and foreboding, God is waiting to let His glory shine through the darkness to reveal how His majesty can transform bleak into beauty.
January 07, 2019
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December 11, 2018