“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: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 inquire in his temple.” Psalm 27:4 ESV
Chef Sara Moulton recently shared a story about Julia Child on the podcast, Cherry Bombe that made me laugh. Years ago, Julia Child was at a culinary conference focused on the benefits of healthy eating during the height of the anti-fat trend. A panel of experts had just spoken about eliminating all fat when cooking and the marvels of breeding pork to be lean. When the moderator turned to the crowd for any feedback, Julia made a poignant statement in her recognizable voice, “I just don’t understand what is so terribly wrong with butter. I just love butter!”
Her words were a lifeline to me during my recent ailment when I couldn’t taste or smell anything. I ate only because I could feel hunger pains and I needed nourishment to help fight the illness. When temperature, texture, and color become your only identification with food, oatmeal is warm mush, cherry tomatoes are red wet balls, and coffee is hot brown water. But Julia Child’s statement about butter kept me going, reminding me that food did have flavor and, someday, my senses of smell and taste would return, and I would, once again, be able to enjoy it.
This temporary loss made me appreciate God and His creativity and goodness found in the world He designed. He filled our world with colors, sounds, textures, smells, and flavors that appeal to us and bring enjoyment to our lives. He could have made the world black and white, where everything we touch is smooth and hard, and smells and taste are one note. Instead, He paints the sky with citrus colors dusted with blush pinks at sunset, designs birds to sing cheerful morning music, allows spiny hedgehogs to roam pine-scented forests, and gives us salty, rich butter to cover our toast. I recognize that senses help us take in information about our world and can provide a form of protection for us. But God had a bigger plan for us; He created beauty in the world for us to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. This beauty enriches our lives and points us toward a creative God.
The Bible is full of passages that, through our senses, invite us to learn more about God. In Psalm 19:1, we are told that “The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands.” In Psalm 34:8, He challenges us to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Our testimony and praise “spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere,” according to 2 Corinthians 2:15. 1 John 5:14 states, “the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” Finally, we can be assured that God is doing a work in us because Isaiah 64:8 declares, “you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are the potter, we all are the work of your hands,”.
Twenty years ago, if I had had the privilege to serve Julia Child a meal, she would have asked me the same question about butter. I was trying to make healthy choices when I prepared vegetables for my children, serving them slightly steamed mixed vegetables with just a dash of salt. My children obediently choked down their flavorless vegetables, never declaring their goodness. As I have grown in my culinary skills, I now recognize the importance of fat, such as butter or good olive oil, because it provides flavor and balance to foods. I would still be nervous to cook for Julia Child, but she wouldn’t need to ask me why I thought butter was so terrible!
Just like butter helps to make vegetables a little more palatable, we need beauty in our lives to get through hard moments. We need to watch sunrises, taste mint chutney, listen to Vivaldi’s concertos, feel the warmth of plush, cozy throws, and smell cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. Beauty gives us a reason to pause, reflect, praise, and thank God for His multitude of blessings. Hannah Anderson, in her book All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, says, “for when we seek whatever is lovely, we are lifted above the paltry urgencies of this life and given a vision of the next. When we seek whatever is lovely, we are drawn to the One who is altogether lovely”. Beautiful things are all around us to enjoy, but I have a responsibility to seek those things. Just maybe, having my senses impaired for a brief period was a gentle reminder of the importance of drawing closer to the lovely One.