Spanish history is inextricably intertwined with the Church. The Church, for a decent portion of the time, was the equivalent of government here (for better or for worse … though probably for worse). So far, we have visited a multitude of churches and religious buildings in Spain. They’re all absolutely breathtaking. I cannot begin to imagine the thousands and millions of dollars that went into these buildings filled with intricate wooden designs, gold leaf statues and painted ceilings.
And yet, despite all the magnificence of each building, I can’t help but feel their emptiness. So many of these sites have transformed into tourist traps, merely a place to stop and see a pretty site. I can’t help but wonder, “Where is God?” Though these buildings were meant to be so beautiful so that people can feel God’s presence more fully, I can’t help but feel that the opposite accidentally occurred. In fixating so much on the beauty of the building, I found myself ignoring the beauty of the presence of God. I found myself feeling displaced from his presence a little, so far away from those I love.
For me, God isn’t in these magnificent buildings carved and decorated by the finest artisans. For me, God is in people. He is in the faces of the people I walk by and the funny memories I share with my family and friends. He is there in the comfort from others, not in a constricting building.
I appreciate the artistry of the Spanish churches and I recognize that, for many, this beauty is an amazing reminder of the beauty of God. However, I also know myself. I know that I often get caught up in worldly things like magnificent buildings and extravagant architecture. I am sinful and I am broken. I'm not sure if this is a cultural difference or a personal difference between myself and Spaniards. However, it seems that I find God the most in bare-bones churches without a dime to their name, but with a community that is overflowing in love. Sure, architecture is breathtaking. Still, what is more breathtaking than a single heart lost in love for God? To me, that's more beautiful than the combination of every single church building—gold, riches and all.