Active Waiting – Strengthening the Braid of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Active Waiting – Strengthening the Braid of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

Active Waiting – Strengthening the Braid of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty

“In my mind I keep returning to something, something that gives me hope – the mercies of the Lord are not exhausted, His tender compassions have not ended. On the contrary, they are new every morning! How great is your faithfulness! The Lord is all I have, I say; therefore I will put my hope in Him. The Lord is good to those waiting for Him, to those who are seeking Him out. It is good to wait patiently for the saving help of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:21-26).

WAIT: “qavah,” a common Hebrew term in Scripture for “wait,” which has a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. We get a fuller understanding of ‘qavah” and what it means to “wait” in the biblical sense, when we combine the literal with the figurative:

Literal Meaning of Qavah: the process of weaving together separate strands into one; braiding together what is needed for wholeness; binding together by twisting and entwining tightly. Examples of this root word for wait would be braiding hair, twining rope, twisting strands together for a cord. To wait in this sense is not passive, but active; not a waste of time, but a useful time; not something to avoid at all costs but instead to redeem as fully as possible; not the time for seeking distractions from potential boredom, but a time to recognize it as an opportunity.

Figurative Meaning of Qavah: to actively hope with patience; to maintain a persistent faith; to peacefully trust in God; to be content in the midst of delay; to live in eager anticipation; to engage in the spiritual activity of listening for/to God; to alertly watch for God in the midst of uncertainty; to look for God’s guidance and presence; to have a faithful expectation of what has been promised by God; to prepare oneself for whatever comes next; to “collect oneself,” to actively “get it together.”

The Purposes of Waiting: to gain and renew strength; to learn dependence on God; to flesh out one’s submission to God; to grow spiritually; to make progress in spiritual discipline; to gain wisdom and understanding; to keep from making rash or unwise decisions; to cooperate with God in His transformation of us; to continue securing one’s intimate union with God; to grow in patience and hopefulness.

“We have the mind of the Messiah!” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

When St. Paul exclaimed to the Corinthians that believers have the “mind of Christ,” He was speaking into a mystery. Jesus, fully God, fully man, had a human brain like the rest of us. But His mind was somehow full of God’s presence as well, shaped and inspired by His Spirit. What does a heavenly brain look like? We have a sense of what makes up the mind of God when we consider the divine qualities of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. These three primary qualities of the nature of God have been called “the Big Three, the “deepest realities,” the attributes of being,” and if we want to get fancy here, the “Three Transcendentals,” which simply means “that which exceeds.” I love the version of one old Bible translation of this verse, where the “mind of Christ” was translated as “the wit of Christ.” In other words, if we need to live with the mind of Christ, we must keep our wits about us.

Because God so lovingly made us in His image, we humans have the capacity to live into those same three elements of deep Reality. We are miraculously capable of participating in what really matters in life. We can grow in developing an identity that reflects our true, good and beautiful God. Creator Lord is the origin and source of the Big Three in our lives, and we can only acquire and grow into them through an intentional relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As has often been observed… All truth is God’s truth; all goodness is God’s goodness; all beauty is God’s beauty.

Once we are willing to accept the divine existence of Truth, Goodness and Beauty, we can start to consider what our human minds are made of. We can point to our intellect as the way to comprehend Truth, the conscience our mindful helper in developing Goodness, and the imagination as the key to participating in Beauty. Our inspired intellect with its ability to reason, think rationally, acquire knowledge; our inspired conscience with its ability to nurture a life of integrity, character and virtue; our inspired imagination with its ability to express our creative impulse, give shape to what is real, and enables us to have faith in what we can’t see. God gave us the tools in our mind to experience these ultimate desires of ours.

Historian Joseph Pearce put it this way in a recent essay… “Love is the path to goodness; reason is the path to truth; creativity is the path to beauty. Love, reason and creativity find their unifying principle in the Person of Christ; Who is not only the end to which we strive but the very means by Whom the end is achieved. He is the Way, the path of love, reason and creativity which leads to Truth, Goodness and Beauty. The way of love leads to the Good of God, reason leads us to God’s Truth, and creativity leads us to the presence of God’s Beauty. The beautiful always leads us back to love and reason.”

The Big Three have an innate harmony to them, they are interwoven into an intimate oneness, and so they are inseparable. But on the other hand, we can see them as distinct as they interact with each other and reinforce a support for each other. We dare not separate the strands in their eternal braid, because we don’t have the ability to weave those strands back together again. Only God can do that. We dare not have an imbalanced focus on reason at the expense of conscience or imagination. The world has had its share of evil geniuses and unimaginative faith. We all need to acquire a moral intelligence, an imaginative intellect, and a creative integrity. A full understanding of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty is outside our grasp because of their common grounding in almighty God, but they can be experienced as we partake of God’s nature. God enables us to flourish only when the disordered and broken Three Realities are renewed in the Lord. Pastor Kenneth Samples says that, “Through the redemption of Christ, which takes man’s natural capacities that sin has disordered and brings back into a right relationship with God and His nature. When we pursue Truth, Goodness and Beauty in this life, we are tracking the majesty of the Lord.”

Because the Big Three runs counter to our culture’s values these days, it is actually very subversive to reach our potential by growing in Truth, Goodness and Beauty. To reflect God’s nature in this way is a difficult task for each of us, so we all need all the help we can get. Our contemporary world understands truth to be merely personal preference, that virtues can change with the weather, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Living into objective, universal qualities leaves one vulnerable to charges of being offensive, judgmental, arrogant, and anti-freedom. “Yes, that may be your truth, but it’s not my truth.” These days each individual person can foolishly define their own identity and value system, as subjective as that may be. So, to all you parents, teachers, coaches, pastors, mentors, the following are some ideas as to how we could help each other develop our divine identity, how we could help steer ourselves and others towards Truth, Goodness and Beauty in a world in which that is a foreign concept.

While-U-Wait: Continue strengthening the eternal braid within us of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Truth and the Intellect. Give young people and each other the tools to pursue and understand the truth; train them in the ability to reason effectively; enable them to develop insightful common sense and logical thinking; help them be comfortable in exploring the truth intellectually and spiritually; strengthen the ability to memorize and grasp factual data; sharpen their discernment between wise and unwise, true and false, loving and unloving, mindful and mindless, logical and illogical.

Goodness and the Conscience. Nurture goodness in the lives of young people and each other; cultivate their integrity and virtue; hold them accountable so they are trained for righteousness; promote a wholesome character and moral intelligence; strengthen their will to make sound decisions; help clarify moral confusion; help them develop shrewd street smarts; enable them to apply biblical principles to daily choices; help them embrace a pedagogy of love; strengthen their ability to empathize with others.

Beauty and the Imagination. Inspire creativity in young people and each other; help them distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly; provide opportunities for creative self-expression; train them in basic artistic skills; capture their imagination in the classroom through story, music, drama, literature, and the visual arts; help them gain confidence in expressing themselves; help them take risks artistically; stimulate their God-given creative impulse; help them be sensitive to their intuition.

Final Thoughts:

  1. So perhaps that ancient trinity of Truth, Goodness and Beauty is not simply an empty, faded formula as we thought in the days of our self-confident, materialistic youth? If the tops of these three trees converge, as the scholars maintained, but the too blatant, too direct stems of Truth and Goodness are crushed, cut down, not allowed through – then perhaps the fantastic, unpredictable, unexpected stems of Beauty will push through and soar TO THAT VERY SAME PLACE, and in so doing will fulfil the work of all three? In that case Dostoevsky’s remark, “Beauty will save the world”, was not a careless phrase but a prophecy! After all HE was granted to see much, a man of fantastic illumination. And in that case art, literature might really be able to help the world today. (Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from his 1970 Nobel Prize acceptance speech).
  2. Famous rabbi Rav Abraham Kook, in his Commentary to the Siddur,wrote: “Literature, painting, and sculpture give material expression to all the spiritual concepts implanted in the depths of the human soul, and as long as even one single line hidden in the depth of the soul has not been given outward expression, it is the task of art [avodat ha-umanut] to bring it out.” Olat Re-ayah, II, 3
  3. “Art in Hebrew – omanut– has a semantic connection with emunah, “faith” or “faithfulness.” Art is the shadow cast by the radiance of God that suffuses all things: ‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.’ (Gerard Manley Hopkins). When art lets us see the wonder of creation as God’s work and the human person as God’s image, it becomes a powerful part of the religious life, with one proviso. The Greeks believed in the holiness of beauty. Jews believe in hadrat kodesh, the beauty of holiness: not art for art’s sake but art as a disclosure of the ultimate artistry of the Creator. That is how omanut enhances emunah, how art adds wonder to faith.” (Rabbi Jonathon Sacks).