"Don't I look cute?"
I entreated the praises of every adult in the room as I spun around in my fluffy dress and did my best "Shirley Temple" impression with the batted eyelashes and winsome smile, knowing full well in my three-year-old mind that I did, of course, look very cute. My wise and discerning parents decided that if they didn't curb this obsession with material things (namely, dresses) and with praise from others, I would become a material girl (a la Hilary and Haylie Duff). So they lavished me with love while teaching me that it was the content of my character and my love for God that defined me, and that beauty and material things are temporary. Valuable lessons.
So, as I have grown into adulthood, I have continued to combat a propensity for materialism with verses like this, "Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal." Matthew 6:18-20
But in the same heart that desires to store up treasures in Heaven is a strong love for beautiful things. I am not only energized and delighted by the beauty of God's creation, but also by intricate fabric designs and well-styled tablescapes and detailed dresses and glamorous weddings. If you are reading a home decor blog, you probably also have some level of love for beautiful things.
So, how do we as believers balance this desire to put away earthly possessions (because Heaven knows that moths and rust could destroy my whole house if left to do so, and a thief can ruin a beautiful home in a matter of minutes) with a love for beautifying? How do I both love beauty and avoid being my vain little tutu wearing three-year-old self who threw screaming fits when I didn't feel pretty.
I have sometimes seen Christian home bloggers criticized by anonymous commenters (you know the ones) as being shallow and materialistic. Is that really the case?
I believe that God loves beautiful things and gives us the freedom to enjoy them as long as we maintain what ultimately matters and use that beauty for His glory.
1. God loves beautiful things.
I didn't make this up.
The Bible says early in Genesis that when he created the world, "The Lord God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit" (Genesis 2:9). He was the first exterior decorator, and his skills are unparallelled. In Exodus, the temple of God was adorned with beauty. "He (Bezalel, the temple designer guy) made the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard of finely woven linen, and he decorated it with beautiful embroidery in blue, purple, and scarlet thread" (Exodus 38:18). And we know that God delights in bringing beauty to nature, "Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are." (Luke 12:27)
2. Maintain what matters.
God delights in beautiful. Not a worldly definition of beauty, but in the delicate intricacies of nature and of the human heart. Nowhere does he request that we only live in boring white boxes or wear sackcloth 24/7, but he asks that we keep our priorities in line and not place our value in earthly beauty.
This means it's ok to decorate your home, but not at the expense of wise financial stewardship.
This means we give before we get.
This means we spend more time loving people with our homes by inviting them in and showing them hospitality than keeping things pristine and stylish.
This means we don't fret when things aren't perfect.
This means we don't let comparison become the thief of joy and rest in contentment with the beautiful or not so beautiful things that God has given us. What are small spaces or outdated cabinets in light of heaven's glory?
3. For His glory
The thing I love about keeping fresh flowers in my home is that they are a reminder that God is the ultimate maker of beauty. I did nothing to create those flowers. He deserves the glory.
So I want my love for beauty to be for His glory. A love for sharing HIS BEAUTY to come first.
I love before-and-afters. I hope someday we have the chance to really flip an outdated and dilapidated space, because that is what God does with me. He takes the peeling wallpaper, green appliances, leaky roofs, and moldy carpet of my life and turns me into a light, bright, beautiful vessel. I see a picture of that every time I take something from a thrift store and re-purpose it. Because I am totally just like that thrift store junk. (Read more about that here.)
So, whatever you are making beautiful, do it for His glory. Do it to love others better. Do it to bring joy. Do it to shine a light on the way that God changes people. Do it with a cheerful heart. Do it with the right priorities. Do it, not because you want to be praised, but because you want to give praise.
When God blesses you with a place to live, take care of it and make it beautiful, whatever that means for you. Maybe beautiful isn't just in the hardware and paint colors. Maybe beautiful is a bird on your windowsill, a quilt from your grandmother, or people you love filling every seat in your house and leaving behind a trail of crumbs, dirty dishes, and love.
It's easier said than done. And, as with anything on earth, a mere love for beautiful things can be twisted into something negative quickly. So, we have to constantly give those things back to God and ask that we let HIM define beauty.
Go make the world beautiful.