Tuesday, August 23, 2011

7.9.2009 Unfading Beauty

I have a vivid memory of being about 11 years old and out in public somewhere with my mother.  A complete stranger (a woman) approached us and remarked to my mom on how beautiful I was.  It was odd to me at the time, and it continued to confuse me as it happened more than once over the next few years.  My friends' parents would regularly make comments to me (or worse, to my friends) about how pretty I was. 

I'd be lying if I said the compliments meant nothing, but honestly, it was more strange than anything.  My parents never drew attention to my physical appearance, and I've never been interested in beauty tips/magazines, make-up or trendy clothes.  I rarely look in a mirror, never step on a scale, nor pay any amount of care to what I wear or how I look.  I have always felt like I was just normal, that I look about the same as everyone else (because everyone appears equally attractive to me, too).

My husband has told me every singe day of our marriage that I am beautiful (or some version of this, as in, "you're hot!"  he he he).  That's over 3,100 times to date.  I don't take lightly the fact that I have a guy who not only notices but also appreciates and (positively) comments on my physical appearance.  I am certain that too many young girls and women are discouraged by what they see in the mirror and what our society - and particularly, the men in their lives - say (or don't say) to them about that image.  And I am thankful that I seem to have some kind of "beauty blindness" that allows me to consider all people generally the same -- on the outside.

Because I firmly believe that the most beautiful people are those with generous hearts.  My husband, who loves me dearly, will be the very first to tell you that no matter how 'gorgeous' I appear, he has seen me be uglier than anyone else could imagine.  UGLY.  And even on my prettiest days, I know that I don't compare to the many beautiful women in my life who are able to love me so much better than I do them.  If I ever feel unattractive, it is when I consider my (many) character flaws.  Who cares about the bags under my eyes, my out-of-style clothes, and my flabby belly when I lose my patience with my daughter, hold bitterness against my husband, or fail to help someone in need?

I want my daughter to have confidence in her physical beauty.  Enough confidence to not feel like she has to dress or make herself up in any particular way to "look better" than her natural self.  But it is her "natural self" that is my chief concern, the self that cannot be concealed and that blesses or curses the company she keeps.  The Hebrew King Lemuel wrote 31 proverbs about an amazing woman (oracles his mother taught him!) and this one is wisest of all:

Charm can be deceiving, and beauty fades away, but a woman who honors the LORD deserves to be praised.     

And the apostle Peter encouraged women in the early church not to be concerned about their "outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.  Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in and that does not fade. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way." 

I want to be worthy of that kind of praise, to be that kind of beautiful.  

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