Friday, September 23, 2011

The Innocence of Beauty

Little girls...
Sitting here trying to capture the perfect thought, I just let out a deep sigh. All sorts of images are vacillating around in my mind. Bouncy, swingy, swaying little figures, skipping down a sidewalk with a sweet little song. Pictures of frilly dress up clothes, pink tutus, and plastic strings of pearls--tiny little feet in high heel shoes. In their innocence I see them.

In her best dress, eyes wide and searching, she looks up, "Don't you like it Daddy?"

Or after the debut of her latest imaginative creation, be it a song, a drawing, or her best made-up dance, she simply wants to know... Do you see me? Do you delight in me? Do you think I'm beautiful?

No matter how it manifests itself, every little girl bears this question in the depth of her soul. No one has to teach it to her. She doesn't conjure it up. It is just there. Given to her by the One who created her in his very own image. 

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27, underlining mine) 

One of the ways we bear God's image as a woman is in our desire to be beautiful, seen, and enjoyed.

Isaiah 6:3 tells us the whole earth is filled with God's glory. One evening last week I was driving westward with a couple of my kids as the sun was setting. Breaking through the trees we saw it, perhaps the largest, brightest hot pink sun we have ever seen. We couldn't take our eyes off of it! This summer we stood in awe at the shades of turquoise and deep blues saturating the ocean waters of south Florida. They were mesmerizing! From the delicate vulnerability of a flower, to the snow capped mountains in the Rockies, creation is bursting with the glory of God! And it is beautiful.

In Revelation chapter four, John describes what he saw in a vision as the Spirit led him. "The One who sat on the throne looked like precious stones, like jasper and carnelian. All around the throne was a rainbow the color of an emerald...Also before the throne there was something that looked like a sea of glass, clear like crystal."

David asks only one thing from the Lord in Psalm 27:4, "that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." 

God is beauty and to say he lavishes it upon us would be an understatement! He wants to be seen, and enjoyed. He longs to captivate our attention. (Jeremiah 29:13) Likewise, so does every little girl...and woman. She speaks something different to the world than a man, through her beauty (Eldredge in Captivating).

I've said before that a woman often despises the demand for beauty. Mostly because it has been mishandled, assaulted and abused, tossed aside, and trampled over. Our world has scared it into hiding with its insatiable appetite and gross advertisement for the physical. On the contrary, the church has often diminished it.

A woman is beautiful both in form and in soul/spirit. It is recorded in Genesis 1:31 that the Lord God looked at his creation when he was finished and, seeing all that he had made, said, "it was very good." Peter also writes, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel, rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Though our dress up days and happy skipping are long past, we must recover the alluring innocence of beauty. Every woman needs to know that she does, indeed, possess a beauty all her own to unveil. And that it is wanted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beauty: The Invitation

Continued From Previous Post...

"The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result." (Captivating)

The woman in hiding:
Remember Toula in the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"?  In the beginning she wore frumpy, baggy, drab-colored clothing that hid any semblance of her figure as a woman. Her hair was just as mousy and her dark eyes downcast behind large framed glasses. Toula worked in her father's Greek restaurant. Though she secretly dreamed of greater things, her father didn't approve. So she remained hardly noticed by those around her, and faded into the background of mere hopeless daily existence.

The striving woman:
Margaret is a high-powered book editor in the hit movie, "The Proposal". Her extra slender frame boasts of her need to exercise religiously, and she works around the clock, even over weekends and while pounding the treadmill. Before she arrives at the office each day, it is teeming with laughter and conversation scattered all across the room. Upon her entrance, one man types the warning on the computer screen to everyone, "the witch is on her broom," and the happy chatter abruptly ceases as workers rush quietly, and hopefully unnoticed, to their respective cubicles. There is no time for play around her; hunker down and get busy. Sure, Margaret's appearance and success are nearly perfect, but they feel forced and contingent upon factors from the outside.

These examples of the hiding and striving woman may be a bit extreme for some of us. Nonetheless, she exists. We see her every day. Maybe in our own mirror. For many of us, we are less extreme than the images of Toula and Margaret, and often an odd mixture of both (as I have been). But no matter, we are hiding and/or striving just the same. And it is soul-killing to us and to those around us.

We strive to look our best with just the right makeup and the latest trendy clothes (I'm not knocking them! Wearing them as I type!) Don't forget the latest diet craze and exercise routines. We hide in the kitchen, behind our books, our office, or mounds of laundry. Women are busy at work, often avoiding eye contact and intimate/vulnerable conversation, or feeding our constant need for control.

It all seems legit, right? I mean, after all, the laundry does have to be folded, and, shouldn't we always look our best? Office work cannot be ignored, and hey, we all need a break with a book or something, right? Yes, and No. What the world, the men in our lives, our children, family, and friends need from us most is our heart.

The excerpt below is taken from an experience John and Stasi Eldredge had several years ago with a woman of deep beauty.

“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?...June’s beauty flows from a heart at rest.”
(Captivating, p. 135)
June reminds me of Esther in "One Night With The King", the beautiful and courageous young woman taken from the pages of Scripture, whose beautiful heart stole the king's.

Eve was created to offer life, and one of the most glorious ways we do this as women is through our beauty. It is obvious by now that we are talking about a soulish beauty. Every woman possesses it. We are born with it, granted us by God Himself, as it is one of the ways we bear His image as a woman. (God himself is beautiful, Revelation 4:3, 6; Psalm 27:4; Isaiah 6:3 proclaims his beauty through the created world; just to name a few!)

Think about it. Who are you most "at home" with? With whom do you find yourself at ease and able to truly be yourself around? In those moments, if I were a betting person, I would bet that's when you let your guard down and your heart shows up. In their presence you aren't afraid and you feel secure, no longer needing to hide or strive. No need to flip the switch to survival mode.

This is where we must learn to live no matter who we are with or where we are. Impossible? June would say no. The invitation is to come again, as we explore the depths of beauty and how we may unveil it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Beauty." Why is it an ugly word?

Driving eastward on interstate twenty-four through Tennessee, stands a mountain waiting to be crossed. It's the only straight shot from the music city of Nashville to the valley of Chattanooga. And it is a glorious one! From the top begins the descent with twists and turns and runaway truck paths off to the left in case one loses control on the steep grade. Jagged rock walls stand guard on one side, while tall trees border the other. All of a sudden, as the last tight corner throws its curve, the curtains are thrown back to reveal a mass landscape of flowing hills, mountain peaks, and deep valleys below.

In autumn (my favorite time to pass through there), cascading colors of deep reds, bright oranges and yellows flow for miles down one mountainside and up another, dancing through patches of evergreens. All to a backdrop of crisp blue sky scattered with wispy white clouds. Awing tears wash the eyes at the beauty and lavishness of God's goodness. It sucks the breath right out of the lungs in a deep inhale of the soul. With the exhale, all troubles and perils seem to dissipate for that moment. And the soul rests.
“Beauty may be the most powerful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty is transcendent. Beauty draws us to God. As Simone Weil writes, ‘The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us…Beauty captivates the senses in order to obtain permission to pass straight through to the soul…The soul’s inclination to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses in order to win it.’

God has given this Beauty to Eve, to every woman. Beauty is core to a woman—who she is and what she longs to be—and one of the most glorious ways we bear the image of God in a broken and often ugly world. It’s messy to talk about. It’s mysterious. And that should not surprise us. Women are creatures of great mystery; not problems to be solved but mysteries to be enjoyed. And that, too, is part of her glory.”
(Eldredge, Captivating pp. 133-134, underlining mine)

If this is true, then why has “beauty” become such an ugly word to most of us as women?

We've all heard the saying, "beauty is only skin deep." So we trump that with, "real beauty is from within!" But if we're honest, we don't really believe it for ourselves. Often, a woman despises the demand for beauty. Mostly because it has been mishandled, assaulted and abused, tossed aside, and trampled over. Our world has scared it (true beauty) into hiding with its insatiable appetite and gross advertisement for the physical.

Eldredge further writes that "beauty is the most essential, and yes, the most misunderstood of all the feminine qualities...that it is an essence every woman carries from the moment of her creation. The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result."

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It is Coming!

For those who are following along through the posts of the past month or so, I apologize for my slowness in getting the next post out! I have fallen behind amidst life and stuff! You should find the next post out by the end of this week, Lord willing. Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Until then, there is plenty to read or re-read from the past year--I have found it takes intention to continue to stay alive to the heart and live from it as Jesus intends and offers. (Proverbs 4:23, John 10:10, Isaiah 61:1-3) Come to him dear sisters, and breathe deeply!