Book Report: Beholding and Becoming

Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship by Ruth Chou Simons

For far too long, the gospel has been delivered in a distinctly utilitarian packaging. No aesthetics for us, thank you very much! We’ve decided that truth can’t be beautiful—anything too slick or polished or pretty must be a counterfeit. But now coffee tables across the nation can rejoice: here is a brilliant work of art showcasing the glory of Christ! Symbolism infuses every page, inviting observant readers to linger in the Lord’s creative presence. Clinging to the premise that “we become what we behold,” Ruth approaches each chapter from the standpoint first of beholding a particular truth and then helping it become a part of our lives. The writing is solid. The art is gorgeous. If your gospel has taken on a starkly efficient and colorless quality, it’s high time to reimagine the heart of God. There’s such beauty to gaze upon here.

Especially memorable quotes:

It’s impossible for someone to continually behold and be dazzled by personal power and greatness while attributing all greatness and glory to God. The two can’t coexist in the same heart.

I have nothing to prove, nothing to boast in, and nothing to give but Christ in me.

For the homeward bound, abiding is actively purposing to persevere in Jesus as He actively purposes to never let us go.

The hallmark of a mature Christian is that he or she knows how to speak when it’s costly, to remain silent when there’s freedom to speak, and to discern what is best for the glory of God.

It’s okay to be a no one to everyone if you are someone to the Holy One.

How we direct our eyes, minds, hearts, and hands in the everyday will determine whom we ultimately worship and what we ultimately become.

Friend, if our response to failure is to cover it up and to present ourselves as other than we actually are, we prove ourselves idolaters—of ourselves. The same is true if our response is self-condemnation and self-pity. These are not the responses of beloved children but of contenders for the throne of God in our lives. 

While wondrous colors and forms swirl through my memory, the concept that keeps bubbling to the surface is based on a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, eighteenth-century German poet:

Cease endlessly striving to do what you want to do and learn to love what must be done.

Ruth argues that “it’s our love that drives our joy and regulates how we move through life.” My personality revolves around needs rather than wants, though not happily, which makes for a lot of white-knuckling and tight grimaces. We’re surviving, but no one’s particularly enjoying the journey. So to release the burden of bitter wishes and instead to warm my heart toward what I’ve only seen as obligations—this is where God can work mightily. It’s basically agreeing with Him that my hopes aren’t as great as His are. In case this sounds like mental gymnastics,

We’re not duped into loving dutifully; no, the life hidden in Christ gives us a new heart, transplanted through faith in Jesus, which, enabled by the Holy Spirit and powered by the Father’s love, causes us to love Him back. So learning to love what must be done—what is assigned for you to do, what circumstances you have to traverse—is not a form of self-help, attitude adjustment, or esteem building. Rather, it’s choosing to … preach to ourselves the truth of how we’ve been rescued and then respond with rejoicing in the here and now.

Yes, it’s true that I’ve lost pieces of a longed-for future; but the truer truth is that Jesus is up to something much, much better. And I want to be a part of it.

Some prompts for journaling:

  • When is the last time beauty changed me?
  • How can I fight to abide in Christ?
  • Where do I need to recognize my smallness—not of value, but of power?
  • How have I tried protecting myself from failure by strategizing perfectly?
  • In what ways do I need to steward well and travel light?
  • Where have I behaved as though Jesus came to make me better, not new?
  • Has staying ahead of the game in all areas of my life become a normal pattern for survival?
  • What do I need to behold more of? less of?
  • When am I tempted to obsess over measuring my own resources?
  • How has God kept me close to Himself?

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