to my friend Leon, who doesn’t really get the arts

You said, “I come at it from the angle of, ‘What is God teaching me through this?'” And that unsettled me a little bit, although I couldn’t understand it at the moment.

But I’ve figured it out: Sometimes the proper response to art, to beauty, and to God Himself is not “What does this mean?” but “Wow!” Awe. Wonder. And the thing about awe and wonder is that they take us outside of ourselves and make us forget ourselves.

I think that, in the Christian community, we want everything to have some sort of spiritual meaning. And sometimes it does, and that’s fine. But sometimes the thing itself is the point, and to try to understand it for what it means, or what it’s trying to say, is to reduce it from beauty to function.

And we do this with God sometimes: We relate to Him only by loving Him by what He can do for us, even when those things are good. And we should indeed praise and honor Him for those things. But some of the most interesting times I’ve ever had with God are when I understand who He is as it has nothing to do with me. He makes me forget myself. All I can do is be there in His presence and be filled with joy at Him, for who He is.

Not that the arts are God, obviously. But they are one of the means that He can use to teach us how to forget ourselves, and make us a more wonder-filled people.


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