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Finding Beauty When We Look Beyond the Surface

Probably nothing evokes our area of the country more than a magnolia blossom. Although the trees themselves are impressive with their shape, height and waxed leaves, when the blooms emerge, they almost speak, saying “Deep South.”
These trees and their blossoms grace many homes where we live, and we take great pleasure in them.

They are admired as they grow in carefully groomed landscapes, and the blossoms and leaves are often cut and used to decorate tables or in other arrangements.

One morning a friend brought a perfect magnolia blossom into our Y. Everyone gathered around to admire its loveliness and inhale its fragrance. It was a particularly flawless example with its creamy color.

While most of us were content just to look at the bloom, my husband and another friend, both excellent photographers, went to get their cameras.

They took turns photographing the blossom in various settings, with different light, changing angles and asking other friends to pose with it. When we left for the day, the bloom remained for others to enjoy.

As we entered the Y the next day, we saw that the magnolia blossom was wilted and brown around the edges.

Almost all of us saw only the fact that the blossom was past its prime, and we shook our heads at the flower’s fleeting beauty, especially when cut from the tree.

My husband, however, saw something else. As he peered at the bloom, he was able to appreciate both the structure and photographic possibilities of the carpel and wilted petals.

The first day we had been so caught up in surface beauty that we had not even noticed the rest of the bloom.

We brought the blossom home, Bill set up his tripod, selected the correct lens and shot away. The resulting photograph was outstanding, beautiful.

People whose paths cross ours every day are less than perfect. None is as perfect as that magnolia blossom was on the first day we saw it.

Unfortunately, as we interact with others, many of us have difficulty looking beyond the surface to see what lies beneath. Often we make judgments about others based on how they are dressed, the color of their skin, their religion or lack thereof. Sometimes we criticize another’s grammar, political orientation, education or other choices.

Perhaps our interests don’t mesh. There might be a language barrier, or a perception based on our age might stand in the way.

But the flawed people who are part of our lives still offer beauty – perhaps in a smile or an eye twinkle or an affectionate touch.

Another person may have a flair for dressing just so or have the gift of including someone in a conversation.

Still others can reach out with kindness and thoughtfulness to touch someone who is hurting.

Each of God’s children has a beauty that may be easy to overlook if all we’re looking for is an ideal beauty. When we look as carefully as my husband did at the wilted magnolia blossom, our lives will be enriched and deepened by the attractiveness around us.

SaraPowell is on the board of directors of the Baptist Center for Ethics, a freelance writer and former moderator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. She and her husband, Bill, live in Hartwell, Ga. Visit her website at www.liftyourheart.com.