There is truth and goodness in beauty, one that we recognize without having to be told (much less needing it plastered all over magazine covers). Beauty should touch a primal chord within us, captivate us, and spur us to adoration, even worship. Sometimes it takes a spiritual eye, a discerning eye, to truly appreciate beauty. A spiritual perception of glory, the loveliness of holiness, and the preciousness of grace … all the things that come with being created in God’s image. All beauty reflects its source, namely, God. When we experience beauty, we experience God. When we create beauty, we reveal God to others.
Continuing the thoughts from yesterday’s post, whenever my faith wavers, I try to remember that I have encountered true beauty in my life. I just wish more would see the beauty in themselves and realize they reflect God with their very existence. True, beauty has a subjective element to it, but there are also standards, or universals, to it. So I decided to look around at some of the beauty in my life to realize what they have taught me about beauty (keep in mind, these are but a few examples. I could easily go on):
Beauty sometimes has believed lies about itself, be it from a parent or a friend or a social group, to the point where it can’t recognize itself. The tragedy is that beauty is so often determined from the outside that we’re left in need of validation. We find ourselves consciously or unconsciously asking “Do you see beauty in me? Am I worth another glance?” We can become trapped in negative stories we’ve come to believe about ourselves and cling to a fundamental insecurity about ourselves to the point where we can recognize beauty in the mirror.
Beauty sometimes needs to be drawn out. Better stated, sometimes beauty doesn’t recognize its own preciousness. Nicole Johnson has captured the desires and dreams of women in her book, Keeping a Princess Heart In a Not-So-Fairy-Tale World. Without succumbing to sentimentality, Nicole demonstrates how the fairy-tale stories of our youth touch upon the very real desires women possess. We all long to be Cinderella (the mistreated beauty rejected by others but pursued by a prince), Sleeping Beauty (the captive beauty waiting for life-giving kiss), and Snow White (the outcast beauty who raises a family of dwarves). Put succinctly, too many princesses wait on princes, not realizing that they don’t need them.
Beauty should have confidence and confidence is beautiful. Because beauty is so often determined from the outside, we forget that beauty recognizes itself. Beauty can be self-defined and self-determined. Just like we can become trapped in negative stories about ourselves, we can write our own positive stories and wait for the world to fall in lockstep with them. When beauty acknowledges and affirms their beauty rather than waiting on the princes of the world to recognize, beauty turns heads.
Beauty perseveres. Like faith it can be tried and tested, it may bend, but never fade away. I am reminded of this verse: “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5. Beauty, art, faith – all are meant to persevere.
Beauty has standards. I am guilty of Philokalia. Philokalia is Greek for “the love of the beautiful.” Beauty doesn’t need me to value it, but it demands to be known, loved, and appreciated. I may not be everyone’s idea of a prince, but I am someone’s. When true beauty is encountered, it defines the world around you. That kind of beauty you better marry.
A part of loving one another means looking at one another with eyes of love. I’m not going to look at just anyone with the same eyes that I look at my wife, but the spirit of philokalia should be contagious.
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