Ever since I was little, I had wanted to go to Georgia Tech to be an architect. There were no pursuit higher, no ambition more burning than this one which endured from childhood and only grew more consuming as the years passed. In some ways, when I was accepted to Georgia Tech and enrolled in the College of Architecture, it was expected. What was not expected is that the greatest lesson I would learn during my time studying in the College of Architecture was how to read Scripture.
I do not remember many specifics about my first (and what would be my last) year as an architecture student. It was regular and routine to work through the night in the design studio. The work was demanding and exhausting. But I will always remember the very first exercise my studio instructor assigned to us. We were taken to the top floor of one of the two College of Architecture buildings on campus. From there we could see what is called East Campus laid out before us which soon meets the Midtown skyline rising above the trees less than a mile away.
There was beauty waiting to be discovered and appreciated and delighted in by the keen observer—beauty that cannot be assumed but must be sought.
We were asked to draw that scene. It seemed a simple enough task. I can still remember my view was framed by tree branches which were still dressed in their late-summer leaves. Beyond the trees laid a row of fraternity and sorority houses which fronted the baseball field. Immediately beyond and behind the baseball field was the football practice field whose end dissolved with what appeared to be no distinction into the ascending heights of condo and office towers. Being the College of Architecture, it seemed like a modest request until the caveat was added that we were to draw that scene without picking up our pencil.
It seemed absurd and aimless. What could possibly be the point of not lifting your pen? The reason would prove far more profound than I could have imagined. In the framework of the seemingly pointless instructions, the scene out the window that seemed to be static and flat suddenly became alive. I began to see in what a moment ago appeared to be generic trees and cars and streets an intricacy and uniqueness of detail to which thoughtlessness and familiarity had blinded me. It was soon clear that while on the one hand a glance out the window could comprehend what lay outside, on the other what lay outside was incomprehensible and inexhaustible. There were details to each leaf, uniqueness to each cloud, intricacy to each building facade. There was beauty waiting to be discovered and appreciated and delighted in by the keen observer—beauty that cannot be assumed but must be sought. It is beauty too precious and profound to disclose itself to any passerby, but to the one who looks, it is there in what seems to be an ever increasing degree.
It was a scene to which I would later return time and time again—both looking back on the beginning which taught me I know very little but also spurring me to seek some new detail, some new inspiration, something, anything new that would remind me afresh there is more beauty still to be explored and delighted in.
If we look, if we really look, what seems static and flat begins to open up into a dynamic drama alive with details and intricacies too worthy to be disclosed to the thoughtless passerby, too precious to be revealed to the arrogant observer.
Perhaps the connection to reading Scripture is already clear. We wrongly assume familiarity with Scripture. As such we approach it with a thoughtlessness void of any expectancy to find and see and delight in something we have not yet discovered. The only expectation we carry to Scripture is that we will see and find that which we already know. Reading Scripture for many of us is a look out a window to a static portrait filled with generics that do little to excite our minds or stir our emotions. But if we look, if we really look, what seems static and flat begins to open up into a dynamic drama alive with details and intricacies too worthy to be disclosed to the thoughtless passerby, too precious to be revealed to the arrogant observer. Scripture discloses the only true and eternal God of all glory. Can there not be here alone, in Scripture, the most precious and inexhaustible beauty of all? Yet it keeps itself for the humble, for those who know on the one hand they know very, very little of the eternality of God and on the other hand know that there is much more beauty to find, more glory to behold, more grace to be enjoyed. And so it will be forever and ever for those who seek it, for a thousand eternities could not deplete the inexhaustible well of the glory and beauty of the God who comes to us in Scripture.