Making Time for Beauty and Gratitude

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, March 1, 2024

Grant us habits of sacred pause. Let us marvel not just as the grand or majestic, but beauty’s named etched into every ordinary moment.

—Cole Arthur Riley, Black Liturgies

Recently, when I was listening to a satellite radio program dedicated to political news, commentary, and analysis, one of the hosts departed from the usual fare to discuss the importance of experiencing beauty and gratitude during this political season. It struck a dissonant note for me, but not because I don’t believe it. And it wasn’t different from anything I’ve said many times in church or written in articles because I know the blessing of beauty and gratitude during difficult times. But that invitation to take time for beauty and gratitude surprised me because I had come to accept that we have been unable or unwilling to let such lofty pursuits and attributes have a place in our politics. Perhaps more intentional articulations of gratitude and engagement with art, music, and literature are just what we need amid our political fights and competition.

Yes, the urgency of the political moment and the stress under which our social, economic, and political life is strained calls for sober, serious discussion about the future of our democracy. Some will despair that such pursuits can be a distraction when what is called for is sustained organizing, protests, and resistance in pursuit of justice. And yet, we know that we need to feed and nurture our souls to endure and overcome the stresses of life. In a prayer with the superscript “For Beauty in the Mundane,” writer and poet Cole Arthur Riley invites us to a “sacred pause” to find beauty in the ordinary. Taking time for beauty and gratitude is not a waste or a distraction but an opportunity to tap into an enduring blessing that our political problems or disappointments can impede. We can have beauty as the antidote to despair and sacred pause as a cooling salve to anxious busyness.

I recall the closing remarks of the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi. After he had earlier encouraged the saints to be careful about selfish ambition, look out for the interests of others, and be joyful and gentle, he invites them to the pursuit of good, beauty, and gratitude: “Brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8). I pray that we never let our political and economic differences, challenges, and disappointments cause us to lose sight of the beauty and blessings we enjoy. I pray that we do not draw so rigid a line between what we perceive to be sacred and profane that we miss out on the Divine presence in ordinary people and moments. Take that sacred pause and see the beauty of God’s creation. Amen.