It’s an invitation to engage with ordinary, simple, familiar things.
A painting in an art museum. A young boy building a light-bulb circuit. A migraine headache. Searching for thimbleberries. Family rituals, like reading stories aloud. Cooking from a friend’s recipe. Reading a much-loved story from your childhood.
It is in those simple familiar things that writer Monica Sharman finds beauty, and more than beauty. In the beauty of the ordinary she finds metaphors for Bible reading, and has collected those metaphors in Behold the Beauty: An Invitation to Bible Reading.
Her invitation is as simple as the beauty she writes about: “Come with me. Come to that which our ears can hear, our eyes can see, and our hands touch. Extend your hands. Take hold of the Bible, the very words of God Himself.”
This is not a call to excitement and thrills. This is a call to a deliberate, thoughtful walk, a walk with senses alert, yes, but a walk in the quiet things of the everyday. It’s an important call, because we spend most of our lives in the quiet things of the everyday.
And it is there that is the best place to read the words of God.
In addition to reading about God’s word, Sharman provides small anecdotes about herself and her family – a hike, a vacation by train, an over-stimulated baby, her own experiences with God at CalTech, where she majored in physics. Each anecdote is carefully woven into the fabric of the story she is telling. And Sharman is a storyteller, a storyteller who seems familiar because she is telling our stories as she tells her own. (Be sure to read the preface by writer Jean Fleming; she knows about Sharman and her storytelling abilities.)
Each relatively short chapter includes practical, simple suggestions – what Scriptures to read, questions to ask (and answer), ideas to try out. She suggests paying special attention to how Scripture uses metaphors and repetition, how conversations develop, how details help tell the story, why the setting is so often so important, and other helpful practices.
Behold the Beauty is written by a woman who loves God’s word and is eager to share that love in practical, familiar ways.
Painting: A Girl with a Broom, oil on canvas; artist unknown but possibly Carel Fabritius, about 1651; National Gallery, Washington, D.C. This is the painting that so captured Monica Sharman’s imagination, as she describes in Behold the Beauty.