Friday, September 9, 2016

Beautiful

Today, I would like to share a secret with you, one that those of you who know me may or may not be aware of: I don't wear makeup. Save for a little eyeshadow or lipstick from time to time for an extra splash of color.

While I realize that I'm not the only woman who doesn't wear makeup regularly, I nonetheless am very much aware that I'm in the minority for young women in America today. It's not only common, but also expected of women to wear makeup when leaving the house - except, perhaps, for a trip to the gym or grocery store.

So why don't I wear makeup? Truthfully, I used to. But one day about 3 or 4 years ago, in an attempt to combat a persistent acne problem, I decided to use only natural products on my face. That meant cutting out cosmetics. While I've now mostly abandoned that approach to skincare, I did learn something from that experiment: makeup wasn't doing anything for me. It didn't make me any prettier. And most importantly, it didn't cause people to like me any more or any less. So, I pretty much quit wearing makeup.

What I've finally begun to grasp since that time is that there is something incredibly shallow about the world's idea of beauty. The world says that beauty is about physical perfection. But for all our striving for flawless skin and smaller waistlines, our idolization of supermodels and our judgment of those who dare to show their flaws, there is something about the world's definition of beauty that will leave its subscribers hollow on the inside.


Most people logically realize, of course, the shallowness of such a mindset. The truth that real beauty is on the inside has become fairly cliché nowadays. But that doesn't stop people from trying to attract others with their looks, trying to make themselves more beautiful. It certainly didn't stop me.

A few months ago, a missionary speaking at my church mentioned that an area the church needs to focus on is spreading beauty in the world, because that will attract them to God. That got me thinking about the value of beauty - something I've always intuitively recognized as good but never really thought about why. And here's what I've learned about beauty since then.

First, a definition. To say that something is beautiful is to say that it is "possessing qualities that give great pleasure or satisfaction to see, hear, think about, etc.; delighting the senses or mind" ("Beautiful," 2016). According to Scripture, God is beautiful (Ps. 27:4), far more than anything we have ever seen with our natural eyes or could imagine. What does that mean to us? It means that He is pleasing to look at. His beauty is what causes us to turn our focus to Him. It is why the grandeur of a mountain or the glow of a sunset often causes us to pause for a moment, marvel, and reflect upon things of an otherworldly nature. As human beings, we are created in God's image (Gen. 1:27). When aligned with our original design, we reflect His nature. To me, then, this means that I am beautiful by design.

If that is true, then, why do I not always appear beautiful? Why do I sometimes seem ugly - physically, emotionally, etc.? It's because I'm not perfectly aligned yet with my identity in Christ. God cleansed my heart and restored my identity as His child through Jesus' death on the cross. But it required action on my part to receive it. And it still requires action on my part to continue to walk in that restored identity, day by day, as I learn how to see myself and act authentically as a child of God.

God created mankind as beautiful creatures, and restored that lost beauty through Christ. So He already sees me as beautiful. He sees the beautiful things in me that other people can't see through all the filth of sin and lies I've believed about myself that have covered me. It's His desire to exchange the ashes I've covered myself in for a radiant crown, to wash off every bit of filth and adorn me with fine clothes and jewels, so that all can see the beauty He placed within me (Is. 61:3, Ez. 16).

So what is this beauty? In short, everything about me that reflects God is beautiful. Our physical bodies visibly showcase His amazing design, of course. But it's the intangible aspects of ourselves that most reflect God's beauty. Our unique personalities. Our deep capacity for love, forgiveness, joy, generosity, sacrifice, selflessness, compassion, integrity - these are the things that display God's character (1 Pet. 3:3-4). When we act authentically, as He wired us to, we reflect God's glory on earth.

So in short, I can dress nice, wear makeup, etc. - there's nothing inherently wrong with that. But I don't have to do so to make myself beautiful. True beauty is beauty of the heart. That is what God looks at (1 Sam. 16:7). And He is the only one who can unveil the beauty within, that His grace restored through the cross.





Reference:

Beautiful. 2016. In Dictionary.com. Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/beautiful

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