The benediction


Brain things / Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

This has felt like a sermon, and I am relieved to come to the close of my inadvertent mini-series on femininity.

Here are the two last things I have to say about beauty. Ask yourself carefully if they are true, and listen to the Spirit’s voice.

1. There’s a natural beauty God gives. And He gives it unequally.

  • I don’t know why; He just does. Most of us are given at least a portion. Almost all children are cute. Many teenagers have a radiant vitality. In some of you, it takes my breath away.
  • Natural beauty is a real beauty. There’s no use in saying that it’s not—that it’s only skin deep, or that it’s “not the beauty God cares about.” He made it. He gave it. He uses it in His kingdom. And we all recognize it when we see it.
  • It’s going to fade. I mean it no disrespect. It’s a lovely, valuable gift, and I wish it would last, but it is time-bound, like cut flowers. No one is naturally beautiful at 60.*

2. There’s a beauty that is grown, not made.

Stay with me!

As we mature, we find our inside becoming slowly, inexorably etched on our outside. I know this is true. I have seen it over and over. I love reading faces, and have case-studied this as extensively as possible in my small 29 years, particularly in the 28 ¾ in which I’ve been aware of beauty. People start to look more and more like who they are. It scares the willies out of me.

Each of us is given the wonderful opportunity/ terrible responsibility of painting our own faces. Before 30, only a glimpse of our work shows. After 30… oh boy. Then the peace of my heart begins to take a permanent place on my forehead. Then the bitterness of my soul finds a lasting home in the shape of my chin. Then joy begins to cling to the corners of my mouth. Then anger-in-private carves deep lines in public, to be seen by all. Then humility and confidence awaken visibly, like a halo around my face.

At first, it’s apparent only to those with sharp eyes. Soon, any casual observer can read it. (Isn’t it ironic that many of us find spouses before our souls start to show? Oh boys, beware, beware.)

*The most beautiful women I know are over 60.

I have portraits I’ll sketch for you soon—heroines of mine. When I say beautiful, I don’t mean in some cosmic sense, beyond the physical pale. I mean beautiful, as in clear skin, radiant smiles, restful faces, shining hair. I almost worship this beauty—so rare and rich a gem outshining all the less costly kinds.

If you have been given a beautiful face, take heart! Jesus gave it for a purpose, and means to deepen and hallow it.

If you have been given a plain face, take heart! A plain canvas is a painter’s dream. Jesus intends beauty to shine there, for all to see.

If you have spent years painting all the wrong things, take heart! I have watched impossible reversals, in which harsher lines of selfishness, emptiness, and independence are slowly washed away and softened into compassion, peace, fulfillment.

God uses and redeems it all!

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete… Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (Eph 3:17-19, NLT)

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10 years ago

Shari, this is quite possibly the best arraying of thoughts on beauty that I’ve ever read. Thank you. My soul felt the cleansed feeling it gets when it absorbs what is true.

When I’m old, I want a face mapped with lines of smiles and tears of empathy. I want this plain face (I love the metaphor of a canvas… Oooo, I get that) to be painted all over with the colors and lines of a beautiful Redemption.
Amen.

LaDonna Nice
10 years ago

So true!