Disposable Beauty

By

I found a dead baby mouse on the bricks of our driveway. I picked it up and looked it over. It was so perfect, as if it were only sleeping. Tens of thousands of soft, little downy hairs lined its body, its muzzle covered in minute whiskers. Delicate little ears and fingers and toes. One of the sweetest little innocent babies of this world, and a true work of art. I contemplated how God could put such care and thought, even tenderness into his creations, only to allow them to fail.

Then I began to look around at all the creation in my reach. Tiny green sprouts growing into complex structures capable of reproduction, capable of completely overthrowing and eradicating other species if they were designed that way. So complex, each tender sapling growing into a hearty, wooded pillar, each intricate insect crawling within countless individual blades of grass, each one a work of art, and each one disposable.

My heart ached for this little dead mouse as I carried it to the field out back and laid it beneath the stalk of an ironweed. When I make my art, when I labor to conceive, compose and create it, it hurts when it fails. It hurts even more if I came close to completion and then it failed. And none of my drawings or paintings have ever breathed. None have ever utilized photosynthesis or reproduced on their own, thought their own thoughts or even thanked me for their creation. None told me they loved me.

That little mouse was absolutely a work of art created by an intelligence and a heart that of which I cannot conceive. It was beautiful, well designed, and to my eyes perfect. And God has been making them by the billions since the beginning of our time, each to exist in obedience to His Word, and to pass away without cause, never to be remembered again. Does it cause His heart to ache, as it did mine, to see that little mouse lying dead on the bricks of my driveway? It seems to me that He doesn’t get attached to each individual piece of His art. He’s capable of letting go. After all, nothing He has made, save our souls, is indestructible. All is ephemeral. All will pass away. All is disposable.

Yet, He still made it all. Even though He purposed that it all would pass, He made it. Even though it would hurt and suffer and fade away, He made it. With care and affection and attention to a billion different details, each one unique and flawless and functioning perfectly within a grand design, He made it.

Why would He make beautiful art that hurts Him? Maybe He takes more joy in the constant rebirth and newness than in the aging and ancient. No matter the reason, I cannot help asking myself: Could I repeatedly put my heart and soul into creating beautiful works of art if I knew that each one would last but a breath? If I knew each one would suffer through pain, heartache, misery and then death, could I still create art? What if no one were ever to appreciate a single one?

Like the countless creatures He has placed in the remote places of the world, each to take its first gasp of breath and then pass away with only His knowing, could I create that kind of art? I don’t know if I could, but our God clearly loves to design and to create, and He has created an overabundance of disposable beauty. And that thought alone makes Him unfathomably great and mighty in my eyes.


9 Comments

  1. Leslie Eiler Thompson

    @leslieeilerthompson

    We lost one of our dogs this weekend and these sorts of thoughts have been ever-present on my mind in the days following. I am reminded of when scripture tells us that he clothes the lilies and feeds the birds. Surely, then, he cared for my troubled little dog. She was intricate with her fur coloring and personality (which most of the time reflected fruits of the spirit), and unselfish with her love. Surely the Lord knew her well, and her time on earth was intended to be short. It comforts me to think that he had intentions of this – and she was good despite the circumstances of her departure. Perhaps it is a gift that her short life has given us, to be able to learn so very much from something so very small. Thank you for this, Joe!

  2. Miss Mary

    @missmary

    Thanks for writing this. It gives a lot to think about. It does make me think more about God being the Living God, and that perhaps all these tiny things that He so persistently makes again and again, even though they are frail in comparison and so limited are there (at least in part) because He loves to share Life. The world may not yet be in a state where things can contain it and endure, but we all look forward to the time when it will, and until then, although He is aware of every time one of His creatures falls, He is likewise aware of it when they call to Him for food (mentioned in Job, toward the end…don’t remember where) and He provides for them and knows about their doings. I suspect He is able to delight in a bird’s first flight just as a parent does their kid’s first time riding a bike without training wheels. Multiply that on the millions of times birds do that, and then the millions of delights that there are for every different species and there is a lot to rejoice in….even though it comes with the pain of grief when their little lifespans are short, or when they have suffering as part of their lives. He is truly beyond comprehension. Thanks for the post.

  3. Amy

    I love that phrase “disposable beauty,” but I’m wondering- can beauty truly be disposed of?

     

  4. Joe Sutphin

    @joesutphin

    Mary, I feel honored and humbled that any rambling of mine could be any part of healing for someone else’s pain. I promise that I don’t actually have answers, and this article was written from more of a question standpoint than a statement. But I look at my little cat some days, and think of how beautiful she is in so many ways, and I have a hope that I will see her again someday when this life here is over. I’m really sorry you lost your friend. thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  5. Miss Mary

    @missmary

    @joesutphin It isn’t any one particular friend for me at the moment…more the weight of lots of smaller deaths that come into view. I am petsitting at the moment, and while I have been working for this family for several years, it is strange to realize that three dearly loved pets have already died.  They were the old ones who took lots of special care (and there are younger ones now, who take different sort of care), but life is like that. But the joy of God’s creation is also in sharp focus here too…the lady who owns this house and these pets is a master gardener. Spring here is amazing, there is life everywhere, in full color. It is like living in an illustration of what you wrote about…until I give it all back to the people who ACTUALLY live here.

  6. Miss Mary

    @missmary

    @joesutphin That sent a bit before I was done…I have helpers. Sometimes I think the questions themselves are more helpful than tidy answers. I tend to resent answers that fit neatly into articles, even if they might be right. Sitting with the question, especially a question that makes me think about the greatness of God are often a lot more helpful to me. It leaves more room for God to point out things that I need to hear about Himself, that may or may not be what anyone else needs at that point.

  7. Eddy Efaw

    “When I make my art, when I labor to conceive, compose and create it, it hurts when it fails. It hurts even more if I came close to completion and then it failed.”

    As a potter these words rang so true for me. My heart breaks sometimes when the pieces I make fail for various reasons. And those ones that are sooooo close to completion …. I have a story from college about six teapots I was carrying on one board to their final firing only to be accidentally dropped 20 feet in front of the kiln building door … it still haunts me. Your thoughts in this post give words to things that I’ve felt and this is comforting to me. Thank you.  I also appreciate your not trying to give tidy answers to these deep and layerd questions about creating. It’s complicated. Faith is always beautifully complex and yet unexplainably simple. Come to think of it … that’s how art feels to those who make it. Love you brother!

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