The Beauty Dilemma

Oct 8, 2011Heal from the past, Kingdom Uncaged

I’m grateful to share Erika Castiglione’s wise words with you today. I love her heart! This post about beauty reminds me of the post I wrote a few weeks ago about the same topic.

I don’t know if there is just something about approaching the 35th year of life or if it is because I have had a stressful year, but I feel as if I have aged ten years in one.  New wrinkles, more loose skin around my eyes, and strands of gray hair have been haunting me in my mirror as of late.  Please don’t comfort me.  I promise I’m not “fishing” and I probably needed encouragement more twenty years ago when I didn’t have any wrinkles or gray hair and yet often found myself at odds with that image in the mirror, overwhelmed with the effort of battling all the myriad of emotions—disappointment, comparison, envy, fear, pride, discontentment, longing—wrapped up in that reflection.   My definition of beauty has been redeemed over the years, but this alteration has come with great effort.            There are mixed messages about how Christian women should think about physical attractiveness.  I have read a number of books on marriage that have elevated the physical to the point of implying that gaining a few pounds is an act of blatant disrespect for one’s husband.  On the other hand, I have read books about being a godly woman that have emphasized internal character to the point of making the external completely irrelevant.  I certainly don’t claim to have all of the answers, but as a person who has given a lot of thought and prayer to this subject, I offer some of my observations.

Physical beauty matters.

This is one of the harsh realities of our world.  I once heard a man tell his son, “there is no such thing as an ugly girl, they are all just as pretty as the next one.”  Although I appreciate his heart, it was obvious his son didn’t buy his line and I’m not sure I do.  Saying that we are all equally pretty is like saying, “there is no such thing as a poor person, we all have enough money.”  We live in a fallen world in which money, intelligence, athletic ability, and physical attractiveness seem to be scattered about in quite unfair proportions and we have all felt the sting from this inequality.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  I believe Eve’s appearance was as flawless as her perception of herself.  She was able to walk before God and Adam completely naked, free from self-consciousness.  However, when she chose to sin against God not only did the aging and de-beautifying process begin, but she felt the need to hide and made a covering for herself.  Since that time, our desire for the physical perfection we lost has often led us to despair or put us at odds with each other (one tragic Biblical example of this is story of Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29).  Our beauty was made to reflect the glory and creativeness of our King, yet we live in a world that tells us beauty is a currency used to buy love, admiration, or power.  I believe Jesus, who on earth “had no beauty or  majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2b), knows the tears and the pain of our situation and He can heal our wounds, but we have to be honest that our appearance is really important to us.

There will be a time when our bodies do not disappoint us. 

1 Corinthians 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  Paul tells the reader that our faith depends on us believing that Jesus was raised from the dead and that those who believe in him will also be raised (if this isn’t true than the dead are lost, our sins aren’t forgiven, our preaching is in vain, and our sacrifices for the gospel are pointless).  He goes on to say our resurrected bodies will be as different from our current bodies as a seed is from the plant it will bear.  Who could imagine the beauty of a flower or a tree from looking at small, brown seed?  Our bodies now are the seeds and they have to die before they can be raised and changed into the glorious, imperishable, powerful, lovely bodies they will be!  And with these new bodies we will finally have completely transformed minds and hearts to be able to fully enjoy the beauty and gifts of one another without pain.  So on the days when aches and aging seem to be particularly bothersome and the images on magazine covers and billboards around me seem to be taunting me, it gives me great hope to know it won’t always be this way.  For just a little while longer we will have to endure the sickness and pain of this world, and then we have we will have all of eternity to enjoy the way things were meant to be.

Unfading beauty is real and it is worth the striving. 

Proverbs 31:30 tells us, “…beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” and the third chapter of 1 Peter tells us that beauty shouldn’t come from outward adornment, but our inner self, “the unfading beauty of a gentle spirit.”  The psalmist says those who look to God are “radiant”.  I believe this isn’t all a bunch of lip service, but one of the gifts of the abundant life.   As Christ transforms our hearts and minds and we do the hard work of peeling away the lies and labels the enemy and the world have placed on us, we begin to see ourselves and others differently and we uncover a different kind of beauty.

I used to picture David saying, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” (Psalm 139:14) through clenched teeth, full of disbelief, the way I so often have said it.  Now I envision him head raised, awe-filled, praising his creator.  And I don’t think this is because David was so good-looking, but because David had an intimate relationship with the God who saw his unformed body and knew his every thought.  As we draw nearer to our maker, laying down our fears, confessing our sin, accepting his grace, drinking his truth, living according to his laws, and striving to see others the way he does, our lives can’t help but change and we can’t help but become more beautiful.