When my oldest grandchild was 3, and was having a sleepover at our house, he woke up from a dream, disoriented and crying, in the early hours of the morning. I stumbled into his room, still half asleep to soothe him, but his crying stopped abruptly, mid sob, and he looked at me with a look of utter amazement. Then, in that bold way that only children can get away with, he exclaimed “Granny! What happened to you? Are you not feeling well?”
I had to laugh. I wasn’t ill, but my hair was all over the place and the lack of any make up, made me look different to day-time Granny, who usually at least brushes her hair, and puts on a bit of mascara.
Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder
So often, we invest physical beauty with far more significance than it is due. We equate beauty with self-worth ~ in other words, ‘the way I look equals who I am.’ We know, intellectually, that the photos of people in glossy magazines have been filtered, altered and tweaked. But deep down we still compare ourselves.
All too often we forget that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. He fashioned every sinew, every cell, every part of us with love and purpose.
In God’s Kingdom, to be beautiful is to know Jesus, to behold him, daily, through reading the scriptures, to submit to and obey him, and to bear the fruit of his Holy Spirit in our lives – his Beauty in us, flowing from the inside out.
This beauty cannot be purchased, and cannot be painted or powdered onto our faces. Neither can this beauty be edited or filtered. This Beauty is a person ~ the person Jesus. God-defined beauty cannot be seen and admired in a mirror, captured in a selfie, or posted on Instagram. Instead, it pulses from the inside out:
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery 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.”(1 Peter 3:3-4 NIVUK)
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”(1 Samuel 16:7 NIVUK)
Beauty in the eyes of the World
When we forget all of the above, we begin to define beauty in the way the rest of the world does. Like the Evil Queen in the storybook, who stands before the mirror, demanding it to tell her who is the fairest in the land, and whether her appearance measures up.
By the world’s standards, to be beautiful is to be as physically attractive as possible in the eyes of as many other people as possible.
This kind of beauty is exhausting, not to mention expensive. More importantly, it is fleeting. We age; we sag, we get wrinkles, girths become wider, hair becomes thinner and goes grey. And then what, for the person who has invested all that time and money in outward appearance?
This isn’t a modern problem. People have always fretted over their appearance and loss of youthful looks. The writer of Proverbs recognised the issue, thousands of years ago: an ancient issue with a timeless answer, both of which are laid out in Proverbs 31.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”Proverbs 31:30 NIVUK
“Beauty is Fleeting”
The Hebrew adjective used – heḇel – denotes “breath.” From the perspective of an eternal God, who is outside our concept of time and space, beauty vanishes like a puff of breath. Why then would we we invest our time, effort or hope in physical appearance?
I’m not suggesting for a moment that we should not take care of our appearance, or that Christian women should throw out the lipstick and hair colourant. But when we find ourselves becoming caught in that oh-so-easy-to-fall-into trap of the world’s standard of beauty and comparison, we need to ask ourselves the question; ‘how does God’s definition of beauty change my pursuit of beauty?’
“A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”
Becoming more like Jesus will never go out of fashion; after another day spent in the pursuit of the Beauty of Jesus Christ, we will not fall into bed exhausted, with less money in our wallets after purchasing yet more anti ageing / beauty products. Rather, we will fall asleep radiating God’s Beauty in Christ, fully satisfied:
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”(2 Corinthians 3:18 NIVUK)
All scripture verses in today’s post are from the NIVUK, and as always, linked to Bible Gateway.