This post is by my dear friend Carin. She has broadened my perspective of the world and of what soul care can look like in it. I am beyond grateful for her company on this journey of seminary, 20-something life, and the search for identity. She is a crazy talented artist, and you can see lots of it on her website: carintillman.com
Her art opens the viewer up to an emotional and spiritual experience, and reflects her talent and passion for people to experience Christ and His healing and deep love for us. This is a special post about what it looks like to understand God’s love as an artist.
“We call ‘beautiful’ that which has a share in beauty, and we give the name of ‘beauty’ to that ingredient which is the cause of beauty in everything. But the ‘beautiful’ which is beyond individual being is called ‘beauty’ because of that beauty bestowed by it on all things, each in accordance with what it is. It is given this name because it is the cause of the harmony and splendor in everything, because like a light it flashes onto everything the beauty-causing impartations of its own well-spring ray.” Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names
Because I am a partaker in the gift of life that Beauty gives, I am beautiful. It seems cliché to be a woman talking about being beautiful, but through my years of studying visual art and Christian formation, one thing has coalesced in a
deeper and truer sense than anything else: I am the Beloved and that means I am beautiful. Though this is an understanding or concept that is spoken of quite frequently in my program at seminary, I’m afraid I have completely failed to begin to comprehend this. I can repeat that warming phrase and steep in it: I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. But what does this really mean? It all had to become so insanely specific to me—the unique me, the one He knit together in my mother’s womb… the little Carin that He had in mind since before the beginning of time… all my passions, all my heart’s desires, all my hopes and dreams—that specific. This specificity is where I begin to answer what it really means to be the beloved. It has taken all of my twenty-five years to get to this realization… to this person that I am now. It has taken seemingly forever to realize how specific personality traits fit with specific passions… a continual realization of how I am wired. I believe we never stop learning ourselves. The selves that the Godhead created… the selves that are being constantly redeemed into the best and most-intended versions of who we were created to be.
And so, what does beloved mean to this me now that I am at this juncture in my short little life on this earth? What does beloved mean to a tiny co-creator who attempts to follow in the ultimate Creator’s footsteps… a little one who makes things in order to make her Godhead’s heart proud and so that all other littles may see the goodness and redemption and love they exude…? It means being beautiful. It means believing in beauty (the power of it and its origin); believing in capital ‘B’ Beauty—that One… that ultimate Creator from whom all beauty exudes.
It means believing that I am like Him in a way. Scripture states that we are made in His image. Some say likeness. I refuse to get too deep into the systematic theology of the imago dei here and now, but I think we can safely say we are made in His image. I love the way Pseudo-Dionysius (as seen in the quote above), illustrates this for me. When I look at the theology of beauty (theological aesthetics or the attempt to understand the nature of beauty and art via the God Who is Creator), my eyes well with tears, my lips curl into a tiny sweet smile and my heart sinks deep into an authentic concept that finally this little artist can grasp a nibble of. My God made me so absolutely specific, but I am derivative of Him—my beauty, my uniqueness within the nuance of particular passion and gift, personality and dreams are knit by Him. As Pseudo-Dionysius delineates above, I am beautiful because I have a share in Beauty. He has “bestowed” upon me “beauty… in accordance to [what I am].” (Pseudo-Dionysius, The Divine Names). Being the beloved means being beautiful, and to me specifically in my unique createdness it means being an artist in every facet of my life. It means continually creating little derivatives of myself that continually speak of the redemption the Godhead performs in my life daily.