There is much beauty to be seen in our world. The way the sun lilts over the leaves on the trees. The wind moving through the branches. This morning as I walked the ducks and geese played in the pond near my house and the birds sang their songs as if they had a grand audience. The world around me reminds me of the beauty I can easily overlook when life is hard or when I am at the mercy of time instead of in command of it.
Recently I went on my first solitude retreat. For 48 hours I was away and alone. I slowed down. I became comfortable with just me again. I heard the birds. I stopped and enjoyed a turtle. I shared a piece of the lake with a muskrat. The space where I was is protected land and has been for years. No motorized boats are allowed on the lakes. Dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. There are no homes dotting the shore. No public beaches. It was pristine, perfect. I felt like I was intruding on a world owned by the deer and the woods. A guest to their paradise.
I have to be honest with you, at first when I arrived, I was a little miffed. I have lived in Minnesota almost my entire life and didn’t have any idea that this place, so close to home, existed. I felt those living here and keeping it a secret selfish. Hoarders of the clear lake and thick woods. Why didn’t they share? Why isn’t this common knowledge?
God whispered to my soul on the gentle breeze as he does. They weren’t selfish, they were stewards. Stewards of this beauty. If it was not protected, if everyone knew, if everyone had unlimited access it would not be what it is today. Miles and miles of protected land, marsh and lakes. The loons wouldn’t feel so free. The woods wouldn’t be so quiet. The air less clear. The trails more populated.
God didn’t stop there. He then named me, and you too should you accept it, Steward of Beauty. Isn’t this our job? Starting with Adam and Even in the garden we are given the sacred role of taking care of the beauty that has been entrusted to us. It starts with our world, nature, creation but we don’t stop there, a more serious stewardship is required. The stewardship of people. People are the most beautiful of all creation. The children in our midst, the relationships we have been gifted. There is much beauty to steward in the stories around us.
I am going to take it a step further and say that as humans we all belong to each other in a way. That our stewarding of beauty goes beyond our families or those close to us, or even those like us or those who we are comfortable around. We can and should steward the beauty of the people we encounter every day. Not in a way that feels heavy where we have to carry burdens that aren’t meant for us or fix problems that aren’t ours to fix, but in a way that values the stories and people that make up the world and time that we live in.
Being away in the serene space that had been stewarded for me to enjoy wet my appetite to find more places that others had stewarded. More water and woods with trails to explore. I want to know more of the beauty that surrounds me, I don’t want to miss it. This too can be applied to people, and with even more value coming from the discovery. Beauty often must be sought out, intentionality is required. When we begin to see those around us and those we encounter every day as beauty to be stewarded, to be cared for we allow our judgements to be overruled with truth, our appetite becomes wet for more. To know more people, more stories. To understand where people come from and how they perceive the world.
It is like we are all pieces to a big puzzle. To make real sense of the problems that we encounter as a community, maybe we need to connect ourselves to each other. Join hands, see the beauty each of us brings and care for it. Steward it tenderly for the next person to enjoy, or the next generation.
What we steward now will last long after we are gone in the ones we leave behind. I think of all the social justice issues that face our communities; homelessness, a foster care system in need of caregivers, human trafficking, poverty, lack of dignified jobs, abuse, refugees and there are more, that maybe the way that we take a first step into engaging these issues is by deciding that the people in this world are all beauty to be stewarded. And that in a way, we all belong to each other. We are all each other’s responsibilities.
How would this new view change how we interact with others? How would it change our political conversations? The way we drive, how we engage with the checkout person at Target, how we talk to someone we have conflict with? If we accept the name “Beauty Steward” and see those in the world around us as our responsibilities how does that change how we spend our resources of time, money and talent?
Maybe this is a first step in engaging the hard issues in our world today. Moving into unfamiliar places or engaging with unfamiliar people and then enjoying the beauty found there. Taking special care of what we find, allowing ourselves to be connected to another piece of the grand puzzle so we can better together see beauty thrive.