the baby and the bathwater

September 27, 2007, 10:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

beauty: the quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.

Approximately 60 seconds after I proposed to Susie we were in the jewellers shop buying the ring. I thought it was quite a quick decision, really, when you consider how much we were going to spend and considering how long the ring was going to have to last. But then, as Susie has explained to me many times since, I had been ridiculously dull and slow and hesitant in asking, and so she had had many weeks to do her research. We brought the ring, and it now rests on the third finger of her left hand and reminds me of the day that I made the second best decision of my life.

My wife is from Ireland. I love her, and my two girls and the life we share together. She is gorgeous, and thoughtful, and far more godly than I am. The ring we bought that day was a gold ring, with an emerald, and two small diamonds – one on either side. And I love the choice she made when she picked it out. It is a beautiful ring. But beautiful as it is, it will never outshine the beauty of the one who wears it.

Every now and then, you come across someone, normally in the celebrity world, who has just got engaged, and whose ring is under the spotlight. We find out how much it cost, how big it is, how many carats, and we are led to believe that it is the biggest, brightest, shiniest, most expensive ring of it’s kind, and how that means it is perfectly fitting for the celebrity who wears it. Now I truly think that no ring, however expensive, could ever outshine my wife. I’m sure every husband would say the same. But I do think that there would become a point when a ring became so big, so significant, so expensive, so consuming of my attention, that it would start to be a distraction.

There is something about the word ‘beauty’ that seems to indicate purity, integrity, a quality that can’t be manufactured or imitated. And in my mind, true beauty comes above all through depth. It is understated but not forceful, pure but impassionable. It shines but doesn’t glare. It speaks of fragility but not weakness, originality but not arrogance. When I sense God shining through people, this is what I think I see.


Not a brash, pretty, attention seeking attractiveness. But an integrity, a truthfulness, an originality, an understated quality that says far more about the One shining though them, than about the individual themselves.


Now I’m slightly worried about all of this. I’m worried that I may lose credibility amongst my mates. Because I actually want to encourage us worship leaders to aspire to the quality of beauty in our lives – firstly through a closeness to God, and secondly through an intentional arrangement of our actions so as to give maximum possibility that God alone will be glorified. You see one of the dangers I face as a worship leader is that I can get carried away with achieving technical excellence, or recording a great album, or producing outstanding visual presentations. I can start to marvel at the quality of my vocal improvisations, or my clever way of transitioning between songs. But whereas all these things are highly commendable, they can, if not handled carefully, become a distraction. They can come over as slightly forced, slightly glaring, slightly arrogant. And then if I’m not careful, they will start to take people’s attention away from the One who is true beauty. And even if we distract people for only a moment, the danger is that we snatch a little of the glory that God is due, and claim it for ourselves.

One of my heroes in worship leading is a friend called Scott Underwood. The very first time I led worship at New Wine, Scott guided me though it. I remember the first night. I was nearly physically sick with nervousness as we sat in a side room preparing to lead worship. And as we sat there, him changing his guitar strings and chatting comfortably, and me biting my fingernails and fretting stressfully, he said this to me: “Neil, our job as worship leaders is just to get people to focus on Jesus, and then leave them there as long as possible”

It’s an incredible thing, worship. And it’s an incredible, humbling responsibility we have to help people connect with, and gaze upon the Beautiful One. Let’s not get in the way.


4 Comments so far
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neil . . .. .i just needed to tell you that you that i have always thought you were beautiful . . . of course in a very manly way . . . .cause you are all MAN Grrrrrr!!!!

Comment by Naomi

you better believe it!!

Comment by Neil Bennetts

‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’-we can each perceive what is beautiful/lovely in our own way. From the worship perpective in the congregation, ‘lost in wonder’, nothing is more irritating than a lead guiarist who decides to chuck in a fancy riff or a drum roll or a piano chord that grates and detracts from that moment of grace. Yeah, you are right, it detracts from Him who is to be worshipped and points to the player. Something here about’harmony’? being in tune with each other as a band/ as a body but also in harmony with the spirit? lovely words, Neil- hope Susie has seen it J x

Comment by Hallmum

Susie dictated it to me….(joke).

Comment by Neil Bennetts

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