Cattails, Rabbit Trails, and Thistlefish: What is Beauty?

Monday, November 26, 2012

What is Beauty?

I was struck by a question Olivia at Fresh Modesty presented to her readers:

"What's your definition of beauty? Do you tend to think of it more as how practical something is, how  pleasing to the eye, how it "feels," or all of the above? Do we need a more rounded view where beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder?" (see post here)

I think Olivia was discussing a broader view of beauty, including the world, and all of creation. However, it brought me to think more seriously about a small something that has been playing with my brain lately, which includes our ideas of physical beauty as fallen humans. It has to do with a verse that I was shown in church:

"May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it." (Thessalonians 5:23-24)

I think our personal perspective on beauty has an impact. It's important. It shapes us; helps mold our worldview; has a say in our attitudes; questions our definition of truth. 
What is perfect? 
What is desirable? 

So stick with me on this... We are instructed in the Word to turn our thoughts, our eyes, our desires, our heart on/towards heaven, and heavenly things (Colossians 3:2; Matthew 6:20; Philippians 4:8). We are also instructed to be holy because our Father is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16; Ephesians 1:4). 

Maybe these  two concepts are related?

Perhaps when we focus on the beauty of His face, we become beautiful ourselves? even if it is merely the simple radiance  that comes from soaking up His presence and sitting at His feet?

We all know Proverbs 31:29: 
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

How counter-cultural is this concept? This is so difficult to wrap my head around. 
How can the physical aspect of beauty be so insignificant? Not only that, but this verse blatantly states:

"Don't trust charm. It's manipulative and sinful.
Don't chase physical beauty. You could never attain it, or hold onto it, long enough.
There is one quality that you can trust.
One characteristic that will stand the test of time and age.
The fear of the LORD."

The woman who knows her God and is sure of Him will be PEACE in times of strife or turmoil. She will be COMFORT in times of disappointment. She will be JOY in times of confusion. She will be HOPE in times of straight-up disaster. And she will be FAITH in the times of complete cloudiness.

This is value.
This is worth.
This is beauty. 

What does this have to do with the first verse? He sanctifies us. Our whole spirit, our whole soul, our whole bodies, to be made and kept blameless. And in that order.

He does that by putting us through various challenges and trials to refine us and mature us spiritually, then personally, then physically.

We cannot appear beautiful on the outside until we have been made beautiful in our spirits and beautiful in our souls. 
Not until every bit of doubt has been eradicated from our minds and we are sure of the God we serve; not until every bit of our heart is in submission to His will;  not until the greatest desires of our hearts have been laid at His feet in total surrender. 

I want to be that kind of beautiful. And all it takes is the willingness to be sanctified.

God, grant me the grace to be willing. 

What's ya'll's take on beauty? Post about it; and let me know!;)