Darrow Miller and Friends

Sabbatical Reflections: Portals to Beauty (Part 3 of 3)

While this transformative prayer of contemplation is all God’s doing and not our doing, we can be prepared vessels to receive his initiative. Just as the healing of the land was God’s doing and not man’s in 2 Chronicles 7:14, the people of Israel were to be prepared for God to work:  “humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways.”

The condition of the human heart for this type of prayer is to hunger and thrust after God (Psalm 63:1; Isa. 55:1-3; Matthew 5:8; Rev. 22:17). Perhaps this humbleness of heart is most eloquently expressed by the Psalmist (Ps 42:1-2):

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

To the thirsting heart, Jesus says, “let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-39).

Perhaps it was the Psalmist David who understood this better than anyone! David spent countless days and nights alone in the Judean hills as a shepherd. During the night he lay under the starry canopy reflecting on the One who was the creator of such beauty. In the day it was the sheep and the continual presence of his God who provided him company. David learned what it meant to “be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). These were days for being and not doing.

In our modern world we are very busy “doing.” When we are not doing things, we are distracted by television, the internet, sports, and entertainment. Or, others are deadened by drugs, alcohol, pornography, recreational sex, gambling, or other addictions. Our selfishness makes it hard to hear the siren call of the still small Voice; it is difficult to recognize the Portal to Beauty.

The Psalms of David give voice to our own heart’s cry. He writes, or better, sings: “Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary?  Who may live on your holy hill?” (Ps. 15:1) Oh! The Portal to Beauty is an invitation to dwell as God’s beloved guests in his sanctuary.  It is a call to reside there forever. (Psalm 23)

In times of trouble the Psalmist cries: “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only he will release my feet from the snare” (Ps. 25:15). His intent, his will, even in time of trouble is to keep his “eyes on the Lord.”

Again David challenges us to “look” and “taste” (Ps. 34:5,8):  “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame . . . Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

Perhaps while tending the flock, the shepherd Psalmist remembered the tabernacle of God that resided in the midst of the Hebrew camp. He lamented:  “I long to dwell in your tent forever.” And then watching the flight of the eagle high above the Judean hills he pens “and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” (Ps. 61:4).

But then there is the one thing, the best thing! What is that one thing that David seeks more than anything else? He reveals this longing in the fourth stanza of Psalm 27:

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

The prayer of contemplation is inhabited by those humble of heart, those who hunger and thirst.

And what is the end of this union in communion?  The Apostle Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory . . .” Contemplative prayer “grows in depth and splendor all the way to what is called the transforming union.”[6]

The next time you see or hear something beautiful, remember God has you standing before a Portal, the entrance to Beauty. Do not hesitate! Humbly give thanks and step through into the Splendor!

-Darrow L. Miller

[6] Ibid 86

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