Saturday, July 2, 2011

What is beautiful?

I've been leading a girl's small group this summer and we've been reading the book Redefining Beautiful by Jenna Lucado.  In the preparation I've been doing for leading this group and my time in prayer and study, I've been thinking a lot about what beautiful really is.

1.  A person's outward beauty can be snatched away the instant they open their mouth.
You can do whatever you want to your body.  You can lose a hundred pounds.  You can wear all kinds of makeup.  You can do your hair a thousand different ways.  You can have all kinds of plastic surgery.  You can wear fancy clothes, fancy jewelry and all the push up bras and girdles you want.  But all of that is for naught if when you open your mouth, ugliness pours out.  I've seen men and women who I thought were beautiful and the minute they opened their mouth, they became absolutely repulsive.  Ecclesiastes 10:12 states, "Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips."

2.  God creates beautiful things.  When humans tinker with them, they are never quite as beautiful again.

Now, I don't want anyone to take this to mean makeup is a bad thing, or cutting or coloring your hair will make you less beautiful.  But when you start changing structural things...plastic surgery, never will get the natural, perfect beauty back that our Creator endows us with.  I've been in a gym locker room and have seen fake boobs...not that pretty.  Have you ever seen someone who has had a facelift or a nose job and just thought they looked kind of fake?  Have you ever seen a picture of a Chinese woman whose feet have been bound?  They may think the feet look pretty in shoes, but they are twisted and mangled when the shoes come off.  Romans 1:20 tells us, "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."  This means His eternal power and divine nature are so present in what He has made, that He should be obvious to the people who experience it.  Why on earth does any human being think they can improve on what God has done?

3.  It's not our flaws, but our vulnerability, that makes us beautiful.

I'm a perfectionist.  At times, I'm a perfectionist to the point of neuroticism.  There are times when I call my entire worth into question because of a particular flaw in my appearance or personality.  In these times, people have often tried to comfort me with the saying, "It's your flaws that make you beautiful."  I'm going to come out and state once and for all that this statement in and of itself is FALSE.

Everyone has flaws, but not everyone walks around exuding beauty.  There are plenty of flawed people walking around who, in an attempt to hide their insecurity, are belligerent, controlling, egotistical and hateful.  It is only when one surrenders to their flaws, when they open up and say, "I'm not only flawed, but I'm horribly screwed up and I can't be better on my own.  I need help," that they begin to exude beauty.  The broken person is a beautiful person.  It's the person that says, "I trust you" because they have no other option.  And that is why Jesus followers tend to be the most beautiful people I know.  It is because an essential part of accepting Christ as your Savior is saying that you can't do life on your own.  You're broken and have no other option but to trust Jesus.  There is huge beauty in that surrender and vulnerability.

4.  Love makes you beautiful.

Such a simple statement, but such a complex thought.  1 John 4:16 states, "God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."  Both Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4 describe the appearance of God in great brilliance and glory, full of images of beautiful gemstones and heavenly aestheticism.  God is obviously beautiful.  His beauty is such that when we see Him in Heaven, we will fall to our knees in worship.  Taking this idea with 1 John 4:16, if God is beautiful and whoever lives in love lives in God, then whoever lives in love, lives in Godly beauty.

Think about it...if someone shows you love, are they not more beautiful to you?  Does the beauty of their actions not encompass their whole being?  Is your heart not instantly opened to someone who shows you kindness?  If you focus on loving everyone around you, you will automatically appear more beautiful to them, without having to lose a single pound or put on a stitch of makeup.  

5.  If we are really truthful about it, we aren't seeking beauty as much as we are seeking being loved.

Our culture tells us if we are beautiful, we will be loved.  If someone doesn't pay attention to us, it's because we don't wear the right clothes, our butt is too big, our eyes aren't big enough or smoky enough or our stomachs are too...well...jiggly.  We read article after article about how to be more "attractive" thinking somehow that sexual attractiveness = love.  And I have to admit, I fall prey to it too.  In fact, it is one of the major tools Satan uses to try to keep me in bondage.  Our culture has perverted beauty by confusing it with sexiness and Satan uses that to get us enmeshed in all kinds of sexual sin.

We crave being beautiful so much because we believe if someone finds us beautiful, it must mean we are loved.  Our culture (and Satan) have taken it one step further and said that if someone finds us sexy, then we are loved.  Culture says, if we are attractive to someone, then we have worth.  1 Peter 3:3-4 tells us, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight."  

Regardless of what culture tells us, sexiness is not necessarily beautiful.  And outward beauty does not necessarily mean one will be loved.  The only thing we can do to guarantee that we will be loved is to surrender our lives to Christ and be obedient to Him.  God promises that His love endures forever.  For a world so full of people who desperately want to be loved, why is God, the only source of perfect and unconditional love, the last one most of us go to?  

It is only when we quit trying to do things to be pretty/sexy/attractive and go directly toward building a loving relationship with Christ that we truly become beautiful.

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