Hi ladies, how are you? I’m saying “ladies” because with a title with the word “beauty” at its center, it’s likely that there aren’t any guys reading this. But, who knows, there could be. So. For you random men checking in, perhaps you’ll stick around until the end of this blog post and gain some insight into the psyche of your wife/girlfriend/fiance/adult daughter.
Beauty is one of those polarizing, controversial topics these days. It’s something that women, that people, aren’t supposed to care about anymore, but one glance at YouTube, Etsy, Pinterest, the check-out line at your local supermarket or pharmacy, the plethora of products on the shelves at Ulta and Sephora tells you that we still REALLY do. Not only do we care about beauty, we worship it, we strive and spend to prolong it as long as possible.
Yet we aren’t supposed to discuss it. Women are not supposed to care about or comment upon the beauty they see in another woman, lest it portray them as petty or competitive or insecure. Men dare not admire or remark upon a woman’s beauty, lest they be labeled lascivious, patriarchal or shallow. Women are privately maligned or criticized for either not doing enough with their looks, or for paying them too much attention. And this is one area that all women eventually migrate to in their focus, regardless of their age, ethnicity, career path, religious affiliation, economic status, political preference.
One has to ask WHY that is? Well, as a woman who believes very strongly in a loving and wise Creator, I think one reason is because God enjoys beauty. I think it brought (and brings) Him great joy to see the beauty in His creation–in the hues of the sunrise and sunset; the intricate design of each snowflake falling from the sky, of each sand-dollar washed onto the beach; the colors of the trees across a mountainside in the Fall; the regal feathers of the peacock; the patchwork of fields and swirl of mountaintops beneath you when you’re flying in an airplane; the sinewy body of a wild horse, and in the people He has made to carry His image.
Now, this is the part where I usually include some scripture that backs up my opinion. But this time, I actually couldn’t find anything in the Bible to support my theory that God loves beauty. I only believe that He does because of what I’ve observed in nature and in my opinion that the design of the human form is inherently beautiful because it reflects the image of God.
If we look carefully, we can see God’s intention in His creation of beautiful things, and the deliberate omission of attention to beauty throughout scripture. In avoiding the topic, He is making a point: beauty is all around us and is a marker of His glory, it deserves our admiration as it points us back to Him. But it is not to be worshiped, idolized, or to become our obsession or place of value. Conversely, it is also foolish for us to pretend that beauty has no place in society when God himself invented the concept.
But we’ve cheapened it. I’ve cheapened it. And in doing so, we’re hearkening back to the very thing that got Satan in trouble and bought him a one-way ticket out of Heaven in the first place. He saw that he was beautiful and he began to worship his beauty, to identify with it and to imbue it with a false power. (Ezekiel 28: 12-19)
And when I read every scripture passage about beauty since the fall of Lucifer, I see a warning. I see warnings about the focus we place on beauty, the time we spend praising it, seeking it, desiring it, then mourning its loss, denying it, vilifying it, pretending it doesn’t exist. The warning is repeated throughout scripture, because whether we paint beauty in a positive or negative light, the space and attention it gets in our female minds is space and attention that we are not giving our beautiful Lord. So that’s another reason I think that we all tend to hone in on beauty–because the enemy tends to use it as a distraction to turn our praise away from the Creator.
And listen, I am guilty of this. It’s why I’m writing this post, and it is not easy for me to be vulnerable about this topic. Vanity is a true struggle for me–there, I admitted it. There are parts of my body that I’ve been proud to have throughout my life. There are parts of my body that have been the source of much complaining, that I’ve wished weren’t there. And in recent years I’ve begun to see a change in the physical attributes of mine that I would call “strengths.” And the change has not been welcome. As this year marked my 41st trip around the sun, I am seeing the orbital pull on my skin–that it is not as tight, taut, smooth or spot-free as it once was. My hair is not as thick. My muscle takes longer to tone and more easily hides behind fat. My nails are becoming more brittle and my stamina is flagging. When I was in my teens, 20s and early 30s, I think I secretly believed that I would never show signs of aging. The realization that it really is happening to me, that the appearance that I have become so familiar with and grown to appreciate is wavering and fading, is a pivotal point.
Here is where I, and many women, grapple. Here is where I begin to understand the message that Paul preaches about contentment in Philippians 4:10-13. The world would try to persuade me to prolong my youth, to not let my beauty suffer because of aging. It pushes medical creams, organic serums, and various aesthetic treatments to try to sell me the lie that I can retain my youth, that I can improve upon something God has designed according to His will. It turns something God inhibits in Himself into a sinful distraction of discontentment. (And you can hear that the world also tries to convince us that beauty means youth, not maturity). But, my choice and my challenge is to listen instead to the Lord, whose message, although I struggle to accept it, is that I’m still imaging Him as I age, in my peaceful acceptance of the order of His design. The gradual loss of young beauty reveals the condition of my heart and the strength of my identity in Christ.
I did not write this blog post to fish for compliments. I wrote it to acknowledge the question that every woman asks, either out loud or to herself: “am I beautiful?” And to answer this question and close this blog post, I think it’s worth our time to turn our attention to the creation story in Genesis chapter 1. When God created Adam and Eve, the crown jewel of His creation, they were described in this way:
“So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them…God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1: 27, 31).
That should be enough, for you and for me. To carry the honor of imaging God in exactly how He made us, knowing that when He sees us, He thinks that we are very good. We carry His creative fingerprint in the gender that He has assigned to us, the hair we have, the tone of our skin, the sound of our voice, and the natural changes that occur in our bodies as we grow. To try to downplay or exceed His work is an act of rebellion itself, yet enjoying and appreciating how He has crafted us is an act of praise.
So yes, ladies, you are beautiful because you were beautifully made. Rest in that fact, but when you begin to doubt, trust the One who made you to reassure you of the wonderful beauty that He sees in you when it seems that the world has turned its gaze to lesser things.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14