Saturday, October 16, 2010

What is beauty...

Bethany Dillon - Beautiful

I was so unique
Now I feel skin deep
I count on the make-up to cover it all
Crying myself to sleep cause I cannot keep their attention
I thought I could be strong
But it's killing me

Does someone hear my cry?
I'm dying for new life

I want to be beautiful
Make you stand in awe
Look inside my heart,
and be amazed
I want to hear you say
Who I am is quite enough
Just want to be worthy of love
And beautiful

Sometimes I wish I was someone other than me
Fighting to make the mirror happy
Trying to find whatever is missing
Won't you help me back to glory

You make me beautiful
You make me stand in awe
You step inside my heart, and I am amazed
I love to hear You say
Who I am is quite enough
You make me worthy of love and beautiful

Janet is twenty-one. She was on the dance team in high school. Small and petite with a fabulous figure. Unlike so many women in that world of competitive beauty, she escaped an eating disorder. But she runs between five and ten miles a day. She watches what she eats. She’s able to wear the cutest clothes. And yet... when you’re with her, your heart does not rest. Her beauty impresses, but it does not invite. The reason is simple: She is striving. She is a perfectionist (an extra two pounds is a crisis; a pimple is a disaster). Her beauty feels tenuous, shaky. It is not flowing from her heart. It’s almost as if it’s forced, from the outside, through discipline and fear.
June is one of the most beautiful women we have ever met. We encountered her a few years ago while doing a retreat on the coast of North Carolina. Her hair was long, swept up loosely and held by decorative combs. She wore unique, dangly earrings and pretty flowing skirts. Her eyes sparkled when she laughed, which she did often, and her smile lit up the room. She was clearly in love with her husband, her face adoring as she gazed at him. June was at rest with herself, at home in who she was. Talking with her, just being with her, made us feel more at rest with ourselves as well. Her spacious, beautiful soul invited others to come, to be, to taste and see that the Lord is good, whatever was happening in your life. She wept at the retreat. She laughed at the retreat. She was gloriously alive and in love, both with her husband and with the God of the Universe.
And June was about seventy-five years old.
What is the difference between these two women? Rest. June’s beauty flows from a heart at rest.
You see, beauty indwells every woman. We’ve seen it so many times counselling women of all ages. Like a shy doe, it reveals itself for a moment, then fades back into cover. Usually it comes when she doesn’t know it, when she isn’t trying to make it come. Rather, something is happening that allows her defences to come down for a moment. For instance, when someone is listening. She knows that she matters. Someone cares about her heart, wants to know her. Her beauty emerges as if from behind a veil.
So the choice a woman makes is not to conjure beauty, but to let her defences down. To choose to set aside her normal means of survival and just let her heart show up. Beauty comes with it.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewellery and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:3-4)

First, Peter is not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy wearing pretty things. What he’s trying to say is that true beauty comes from the inner part of us. Our hearts. A heart at rest. When I first read the part about a gentle and quiet spirit, I gave up having much hope of ever making the grade. I am loud. I make jokes when I’m nervous or uncomfortable, and when I am comfortable and at ease. I am not prone to long silences. If no one is talking in a group, I take that as an invitation to share my thoughts. A gentle and quiet spirit? Oh dear.
I began to include in my prayers for sanctification a complete personality transplant. Yes, put an angel at the edge of my tongue to guard my every word. And while you’re at it, make me someone else, please. Someone more like Melanie in Gone with the Wind. Or Mother Theresa. Someone really good. I believed this was not too much to ask. He is the God of miracles after all.
God, in his faithfulness, is changing me. But I remain an extrovert. In fact, instead of making me into someone else, he is making me more me. And that is one of the beautiful things about him. That the more his we come, the more ourselves we become; more our true selves. So it is a good thing that I misunderstood the Scripture. Peter doesn’t mean that beautiful women rarely speak above a whisper, if they speak at all. No. To have a gentle and quiet spirit is to have a heart of faith, a heart that trusts in God, a spirit that has been quieted by his love and filled with his peace. Not a heart that is striving and restless.
A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy or enough. She knows in her quiet centre where God dwells that he finds her beautiful, has deemed her worthy, and in him, she is enough. In fact, the only thing getting in the way of our being fully captivating and enjoyed is our striving.
“He will quiet you with his love.” (Zeph. 3:17). A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest, trusting God because she has come to know him to be worthy of her trust. She exudes a sense of calm, a sense of rest, and invites those around her to rest as well. She speaks comfort; she knows that we live in a world at war, that we have a vicious enemy, and our journey is through a broken world. But she also knows that because of God, all is well, that all will be well. A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become. In her presence, we can release the tension and pressure that so often grip our hearts. We can also breathe in the truth that God loves us and he is good.
This is why we must keep asking. Ask Jesus to show you your beauty. Ask him what he thinks of you as a woman. His words to us let us rest and unveil our beauty.


Photo of my gorgeous almost sister-in-law taken during a recent shoot with her - more to follow soon

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