Last week we bought some new bedding. It’s a long time since I did this and I was a little surprised to find how much styles have changed, since I had assumed that sheets and pillowcases and quilt covers are all basically the same: functional items that serve a specific, but limited, purpose.
Most of what was on offer in the shop went by the exotic name of ’embellished bedlinen’. It had raised patterns on the plain linen to make it look prettier. And that got me thinking about embellishment.
‘To embellish’ as a verb has two primary meanings:
1) To make (something) more attractive by the addition of decorative details or features: “blue silk embellished with golden embroidery”.
2) To make (a statement or story) more interesting or entertaining by adding extra details, especially ones that are not true.
Obviously, the first definition is what applies to the bedlinen. The decorative patterns made it look more attractive, more beautiful. In food terms, embellishment is the garnish that comes with a meal or the way a skilled chef makes a meal look even more appetising through its presentation. Embellishment in this sense is all very well, but it’s additional. The linen works perfectly well on its own, but the embellishment is an additional extra that enhances it. It’s unnecessary, in some respects, but it is pleasing to the eye and enhances the whole.
That made me wonder if beauty is simply an additional extra that enhances something or is actually more intrinsic than that. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” I think beauty is something God values and that He has gone to extraordinary lengths to embellish our lives. We only have to look around us at the diversity of nature – the beautiful flowers, the amazing shades of green in the different trees, the vast stretches of sandy beaches, the rugged splendour of the mountains – to see that God loves beautiful things.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the proverb says, and certainly I think God makes things beautiful or sees beauty where we do not see it. It’s far more than outward adornment or embellishment, as Peter makes clear when he talks about a woman’s beauty not coming from fine clothes, make-up or jewellery but being the beauty ‘of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.’ (1 Pet 3:4) Beauty comes from within, from the work God does in our lives by His Spirit. He who had ‘no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.’ (Isaiah 53:2-3) has become beautiful to us because of all He has done for us and in us.
Let’s open our eyes today to the beauty God has placed all around us, not simply to embellish the ordinary, but as an intrinsic part of our everyday lives, a gift from One who is generous and lavish in everything He does.