Saturday, July 11, 2009
I was on the balcony of our condo, resting with a book and enjoying the lull of the ocean waves in the afternoon when my little girl woke up from her nap. With tangled hair and eyes squinting in a groggy stupor, she came to me and said, with all seriousness, that when she saw me, she knew that I was "a mystery to be discovered." What a little prophetess.
A couple of weeks ago, a Bible study question relit a fire in my heart to know what it means to be a woman, to be beautiful, to be a mystery to be discovered. It's a discovery I've longed for as I search for truth among a lie-ridden culture of death. It's a discovery that I know is essential as I am entrusted with bringing up a daughter to know the truth about herself and the beauty she has to offer the world. It's a discovery that I know will bring freedom to my own heart and the hearts of women who've been wounded by the lies of the Enemy, by the culture that distorts beauty and devalues women, and by the fallen people around them who knowingly or unknowingly deepen the wounds of our hearts.
It's very clear that there is a deep rooted problem in the hearts of women today. It's clear that we don't fully grasp what our beauty is or how it can be found or even that we are beautiful at all. What's not as clear is how to find healing and restoration- to find our true beauty and live it out as God intended. But as elusive as our redemption feels, the Lord is waiting to impart it. His promise in Jeremiah still rings true today: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11) Our Healer, Redeemer, the One who restores is ready. We need to seek Him out. He is able to restore our hearts to know what He intended for Eve before the Fall. And for her restoration after it.
What I've found that might be the beginning of the journey:
1. Gazing at the beauty of the Lord
"Beauty is the essence of God." John and Stasi Eldredge
"We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves." C.S. Lewis
"One thing I will ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord." King David, Psalm 27:4 (emphasis mine)
We were made for Beauty. In the beginning, man and woman were beautiful and glorious and surrounded by a gloriously beautiful garden. Our hearts have longed for it ever since.
Beauty itself is David's "one thing." It's no doubt that the Lord himself is stunning- the words John uses in Revelation to describe the beauty he encounters seem to be inadequate to truly capture all that he saw and felt. And even though all of us won't have visions of the Lord in all his unfathomable beauty in this life, we see echos of it, dim reflections of it in a million little ways if we open our eyes to see it. Just this week, I saw it in the glimmer of the sunlight dancing off of the ocean, the delight in my children's eyes as they ran and played, the sparkle in Jack's grandmother's beautiful smile. But it always leaves us longing for something more, doesn't it?
In our current state, in our waiting for the Lord to literally come back and restore all things to the glory of the garden, we seek His beauty by gazing at Him in prayer, meditation, and service. We spend time with Him, going where He leads and giving ourselves to what He's called us to do. We seek Him out and look for the beauty of his character that is the source of this beautiful Man's light and truth. And one Day, we will see his beauty in all its glory. Face to face.
"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall be know fully, even as I am fully known." I Corinthians 13:12
2. Knowing the beauty that is ours
It's a Sunday school answer that we tend to shrink back from and fight, but the truth is that the beauty of our spirit- the beauty imparted by the Lord Himself- is the source of our true beauty. We must gaze at the beauty of the Lord and pattern our own inside to outside beauty after His. We must start with Him, adorning ourselves with His love and His character if we are to find beauty at all. It's not corny and it's not untrue. We are only as beautiful as the Love we possess.
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth." I Peter 3:2-4
Love casts a quietness and gentleness over our spirits. Not that we're passive or weak. Quite the contrary. We have great strength as we possess spirits at rest. As Stasi Eldredge puts it, "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."
I think I've shyed from embracing my beauty as a woman because I've never really been much of a "girly girl." I've distanced myself from womanliness because I prefer camping and running to shopping and spas, but also because I've associated being a girl with weakness. And who wants to be weak, vulnerable? Femininity isn't weakness. Being a woman is being crowned with the glory of imparting a unique beauty to the world. It's a strong kind of beautiful. It's a beautiful that doesn't strive but also doesn't shrink back. It's a beautiful that wells up from a heart enlivened by the light of life. It's Cinderella- the kind heart behind the transformed beauty that captures the heart of the prince. I've often winced at my daughter's fascination with all things princess, but I think along the way, I've learned- maybe through her- that our royal position in the Kingdom of God is a reality I've overlooked. We are made beautiful and we have captivated the prince's heart as He has redeemed us from our rags and tatters. Beauty for our ashes. Cinderella's story is our own.
And it's not that we shouldn't look our best. We need not give up our manicures and our earrings and our favorite pair of shoes, but we should use them to honor God instead of ourselves. Our bodies are not to be worshipped and they are not to be neglected (props, Andy). They are holy vessels of the Lord and should be treated as such.
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." I Corinthians 6:19-20
The fact is that we are the Lord's and we all possess beauty. All of us. We are created in His image. And even though, because of sin, we are haunted with death, dysfunction, disappointment, and disease- our outward beauty seeming to waste away with each passing year- even though we all grow old, as believers in theOne who imparts resurrected life, our true beauty will be revealed one Day. For real.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1
"It is the same way for the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power." I Corinthians 15:42-43
"It's an inside outside upside down Kingdom, where you lose to gain, where you die to live." Misty Edwards
3. Recognizing the culture of death that daily bombards us with its lies
It's the culture that tells us that we're only beautiful if we are a certain height, with a certain figure, and a certain look or even a certain talent that makes us valuable or beautiful at all. Who says we're not idol worshippers? Our culture uses and exploits women. It prostitutes beauty and strips women of all dignity and worth. It's why we have a billion dollar pornography industry plaguing our nation, leaving all kinds of death and destruction and every sort of evil in its wake. I can only imagine how it affects the heart of God.
Looking to the culture or the world to define your worth as a woman will leave you wanting at best and horribly destitute at worst. The enemy hurls all kinds of lies to pierce our hearts and preys upon us in our most vulnerable years, distracting us, getting us to look to in all the wrong places for validation and love.
We must look to Jesus to dispel the lies. To find our identity. To find the truth that sets us free. And the truth is...
The King is enthralled by your beauty. The King is enthralled by my beauty. (Psalm 45:11)
His banner over me is love. (Song of Songs 2:4) To Him, I am lovely. I have stolen His heart with one glance of my eyes. (Song of Songs 4:9)
On the journey to discovering His beauty and the beauty that is bestowed through Him, blessings will flow. They already have started to melt my heart and minister to the wounded places deepest in my soul.
As I've asked Him how He feels about me, what He thinks about me, He directed me to my name. What He ordained my name to be through the unction of my parents.
I always knew my first name was a royal Ethiopian name meaning "queen." It astounded me to connect that to the place that He has for me in His Kingdom. And I was further astounded when I looked up the meaning of my middle name.
Its meaning? "Lovely or worthy of love."
"No way!" My heart cried. "A lovely queen? For real?"
"Way." He says. He ordained it.
Lord, help me to believe that I am lovely to you and that you are enthralled by my beauty. Help me to live into that truth and to declare it over all who are yours.