In Pursuit of True Beauty
A few decades ago, my mom was in her dining room where she had a gallery of pictures of her 7 children and our relatives. She was proudly showing the latest picture of her seven children to a few of her friends who were there for a Bible study meeting.
As these friends were dutifully admiring the various kids in the picture ~ six of us girls and one boy ~ they were commenting on the beauty of the various ones. One of the ladies then pointed to me and said, "Now there is an example of true inner beauty."
Is it possible to be both blessed and gutted at the same time? Well, I was. More gutted than blessed, though, because of my understanding and belief of what beauty was at the time.
When Mom told me this, her only intent was to bless and encourage me. But, while on one hand I took it as a compliment, it also felt like quite a blow ~ mostly to my pride, because I'd always struggled with not feeling beautiful anyway. And this only hammered the nail in deeper.
I'm thankful that being "not all that physically beautiful" acted as a catalyst to help me focus on developing inner beauty. But it has been a long, hard struggle…
Beauty is something that probably most everyone desires, but many of us have it confused with the world's idea of it. Being overweight for most of my life, and having features that are pleasant enough, but not anything naturally beautiful in the world's view.
So, many years ago, considering myself a "physical beauty drop-out," I felt compelled to really think through what it means to be a beautiful woman of God. Or beautiful in the Lord.
In order to understand this, we have to get a deeper understanding of the word beautiful than what we are bombarded with in the world today, or we'll pursue the wrong thing.
What we think "beauty" is actually makes all the difference in the world ~ in our own world, in particular. So let's first look at I Peter 3:3~4:
"Let not your beauty be external only" (or "Let not your beauty be the outward adorning") with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of robes, but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's eyes is very precious."
Next let's look at the deeper meaning of the word beauty… Here's the definition I found in Webster's 1828 Dictionary:
BEAUTY: "An assemblage of graces, or an assemblage of properties; order, prosperity, peace, holiness; joy and gladness"
I understand what each of those words means, but it's always eye-opening to go another step deeper and look up each of the words of a definition:
Prosperity - "advance or gain in anything good or desirable; success or progress in any business or enterprise; attainment of the object desired.
Joy - "The passion or emotion excited by the acquisition of expectation of good; that excitement of pleasurable feelings which is caused by success, good fortune, the gratification of desire or some good possessed, or by a prospect of possessing what we love or desire; . Gladness; exultation; exhilaration of spirits; a delight of the mind.
Order - "a settled mode of operation; regular disposition or methodical arrangement of things; order is the life of business; … Proper state: when the bodily organs are in order, a person is in health; when they are out of order, he is indisposed." … And I would apply this same definition to our mental and spiritual states.
Holiness - "purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; Applied to humans, holiness is purity of heart or dispositions, sanctified affections (sanctify means to make holy), moral goodness, but not perfect." Now that last thought ~ "but not perfect" ~ was very interesting to me because I have thought of holiness as being pretty much perfection. But it's not, it's purity of heart.
Peace - "a state of quiet or tranquility; freedom from disturbance or agitation; freedom from internal commotion or disturbance by the passions, such as fear, terror, anger, anxiety; quiet of conscience" ... And I wanted to delve deeper into terror...
Terror - Continuing that thought in I Peter 3 about our beauty being "the hidden person of the heart … the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit," it goes on to say in verse 5: "So the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves…" And skipping to 6b: "And you are now her children if you let nothing terrify you." How can this be? How can we let nothing terrify us?!? Because there's nothing to fear? No! Because God is bigger; He is able; He is mighty; He is our Protector and our Provider. "Greater is He that is in you (God) than he that is in the world (Satan)." God loves us and is trustworthy.
If you look more closely at the above characteristics, you'll recognize almost all of them as being the Fruit of the Spirit!
(Side note: I am well aware that these photos of gardeny, naturey, floraly, fruity items are not of humanly-womanly beauty. I'm specifically trying to avoid preconceived ideas of that for this article ~ other than the first one.)
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. So they are fruit! This means that beauty ~ true beauty, that is ~ is not a self-made thing! It is fruit!!! More specifically, fruit that comes from God himself, and which reproduces in us via knowing and walking with Him.
So if "some of the above" Holy-Spirit-issued fruits are not so true of you, no need to condemn yourself; those are just areas that are in need of redeeming ~ because it is God's will that you ~ every single one of us ~ have all of these! We don't get to specialize in just a chosen few, and forget the rest, saying "Oh, that's not my gift." These aren't gifts; they are fruit. And if we are planted in God's vine, we will bear His fruit!
"He who began a
good work in you will be
faithful to complete it."
These gifts do not come to us by mere bestowal, as in saying: "Here you are, just open them," and then we "just receive it."
Nor do they come by "Just DOing it."
So then how do we get them? How do we become beautiful? Specifically, how does God do this beautifying work in us?
Proverbs 19:22 tells us that:
"Kindness makes a
If this is true, then physical beauty is not what actually makes a person truly attractive or truly beautiful, is it?
Physical beauty only makes her (or him) what? ... Physically attractive! ~ which is encouraging to those of us who were not born with oodles of natural physical beauty.
And this is not at all to put myself (or anyone) down; we just all have different gifts and giftings. And exceptional physical beauty (which the world highly values, in case you hadn't noticed) is not a gifting that every person possesses.
This was an absolutely exciting and life-changing revelation to me! It meant I had an opportunity to be beautiful in the ways that are most meaningful, and that matter to God!
"Let not your beauty be external (only), but be beautiful INSIDE, with the lasting charm of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious in God's eyes."
So the first thing we need to do is get our own hearts and thinking in alignment with God's definition and view of beauty. If we believe more in the world's idea of beauty than we do in God's, then we will feel frustrated and inferior, and will only thwart our growth in true beauty.
Whatever we think... whatever we are focused on, that is the direction we will head. We are told something very interesting in I John 3:3-4:
"But we know this, that when we behold (see) Jesus, we will become like Him, for we will see Him as He really is."
Let's read that again… "But we know this, that when we see Jesus, we will become like Him for we will see Him as He really is."
Did you get that? This is IT!!! According to this verse, it is the very beholding of Jesus that changes us!
What this tells me is that if I focus on Jesus, and on His priorities, His nature, worshipping Him (not beauty, or those with physical beauty), then I will become like Him ~ the One who is the Source and definition of ALL beauty is to begin with!
So we need to take some time to boldly ask and honestly answer these questions, which I call "acid test" questions because they can help us figure out where our hearts are really at in all this:
What is our heart's focus?
What are we looking at? (literally)
What are we working
on and toward?
What are we pouring our
time and treasure into?
(What we spend our elective time
on ~ not the duties we have to do.)
These questions are all related, but each one has a different angle, like the four sides of the same box, into which we put our treasure. Whatever our answers are to those four questions, that is what we'll become like.
There's nothing wrong with physical beauty! Please don't think I'm saying that. But there can be something wrong with how we regard it, especially if how we regard and value ourselves is affected by how we regard beauty.
No matter how much we try to preserve it ~ with our primping at the mirror, propping of that which sags, plucking of misfit hairs, polishing of nails, perfuming of odorious areas, plumping of aging skin, pummeling at the gym, or printing eyeliner or fading brows ~ our physical beauty will fade with age.
No one gets out of this, other than with an early exit from this Earth. Which isn't the happiest option for those left behind. (I personally am greatly looking forward to Heaven!!! ~ at my appointed-by-God time!)
Proverbs 31: 30 says:
"Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised."
If our main focus throughout our lives is "body beautiful," and we neglect pursuing God and His Life and Kingdom, we will find ourselves in our "golden (more like graying) years" deeply disappointed in life and ourselves, hollow in things that truly matter, and empty-handed of gifts to present to our King.
But if we pursue God with all our heart, seeking Him above and in and as the basis for all of our pursuits, then, because He is beautiful ~ the full, glorious embodiment of true and genuine beauty ~ we will become more and more like Him as we age!
In so doing, no matter what "physical beauty card" we were dealt, we will be in the joyful process of becoming...