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  • Writer's pictureGalina Hitching

Sanctuary and Surrender | Beyond Definitions of Beauty

It was my first time in Edinburgh. I was exploring the city, lost, and overwhelmed by the bone deep cold, when I stumbled across an exhibit of Ansel Adams at the City Art Centre. I entered the building breathless, and found myself enveloped in the womb warmth of a well-heated old building, and welcomed, as if I had come home, by the smile and kindness of the ticket attendant. I’d always been obsessed with his art, but experiencing 150 of his photographs, in person, I was overcome. Each black-and-white photograph symbolized certainty, offering me a tangible sense of security and hope when I was weighed down by grief and doubt.

That’s what beauty does. It anchors us to the moment and gives hope to begin again. In that deeply embodied experience, we become fully present in our body, while simultaneously lifted into an alternate state where the burdens of the moment recede. There’s something divinely mystical about this melding of spirit and body. Just as the source of all true beauty––the Creator God––is Spirit and Flesh. Perhaps that’s why beauty is so hard to define. It flows from a Source that cannot be contained.

When we experience beauty, we experience the presence of the One who is, and was, and is to come. If we allow ourselves to fall deep into that beauty, receiving it without reservation, beauty holds the power to bring the past, present, and future into a sudden coalescing of breath and movement. Spirit, soul, and body unite to restore us to our original state in a way that rarely happens. The state we existed in before the fall when we communed daily with the Lover of our soul.

Craving beauty is simply craving what we were designed for.

That’s why beauty is a sanctuary and not escapism. It stands solid, welcoming the weary pilgrim to come apart and be restored. Beauty does not dismiss us unequipped; she stays, lingering sweet, Ruach whispering words of comfort when it seems like the last light has died out. Beauty imprints a spiritual mark in place of the brand of slavery, setting us apart but sending us back into the world with dignity.

C.S. Lewis said, “We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words — to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”


Isn’t it much easier to surrender to large beauty? The breathtaking splendor of mountaintops or meticulously curated art exhibits wait for us to be absorbed into the wonder. When we come in contact with something larger than ourselves, whether in size or concept, our humanity, often, quite naturally moves towards that beauty.


In recent years, I’ve learned to look for smaller beauty, fleeting glimmers of joy that pass as quickly as they come, waiting quietly for someone to notice.

This is the paradox of God’s kingdom. Christ turns our gaze to the widow’s mite, the woman at the well, even the little children. Small people made large and illuminated as beautiful. In His gaze, He asks us to look and see the beauty and dignity. Beauty, within the framework of the redeemed eye, gives dignity both to the observer and the observed. Jesus teaches us not to objectify beauty or judge what we don’t understand as He extends His hand to lift others up.

Without surrender to the Lord, we easily chase the experience of beauty with a ravenous desire to fill our emptiness. Instead, Jesus invites us not to pursue, but to be pursued. A flow of resonance and a symbiosis occur when we surrender ourselves into His hand. As we interact with beauty, He lifts our gaze from the darkness and hate of this world to look full in His wonderful face. In His face, we behold all that is good, beautiful, and true. In that beholding, the Spirit calls us forth, lifting us out of the old flesh to become something more. Something beautiful.

Artwork: "The Tetons - Snake River" Wyoming. 1942. By Ansel Adams.

Author Bio:

Galina Hitching spent seven years writing for nonprofits and businesses before she cast off the constraints of her communication degree. Today she writes with fresh hope. Whether she’s painting abstracted landscapes, writing articles, or facilitating trauma healing workshops, she seeks to share and create beauty. You can find her writing and art at

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