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Real Beauty

People seem to be obsessed with beauty in all the wrong ways. I easily find beauty in nature—in sunrises, changing leaves, and rain. Most people can see beauty in that. Yet when it comes to ourselves or other human beings we are ready to give harsh critique. I wonder why we do this especially in light of the creation story. On days one through five, God created the beautiful things that surround us and saw that it was good. Yet on day six, God created humans and saw that it was very good. How can we look at ourselves and others and call God’s most beautiful creation “not good enough?” When God knit us together in our mothers’ womb, he didn’t make mistakes. God knew what we’d look like, and God sees something very good, which should be abundantly good enough for us.

Women in particular are often given the message that they are not good enough, especially when it comes to physical beauty. Culture tells women how they should try to look, which is often an unrealistic ideal. Serious damage is done when women are taught that being physically beautiful (a scale always determined by culture) is a vital component to their spiritual being. If we look across the world and through time, we will find that cultural standards of beauty are only temporary, fleeting ideals. As Christ-followers, why do we waste our precious time on earth trying to adhere to cultural standards of beauty? Putting that credence into something unrealistic and temporary is unhealthy. We must look at ourselves in a whole new way, and redefine our perception of beauty so that it’s based on God’s revelation.

While God built us as physically beautiful creatures, there is something even more beautiful about us. We can relate to each other and to God. Genesis 1:26a says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness…’” In everything else that God created, there is no mention of the Trinity. Yet when God created humans God says, “Let us make.” We can assume that the “us” is referring to the Trinity. The Trinity is beautiful in the way it relates. The intricate dance that it weaves is beautiful. Each member of the Trinity is in such perfect unison with the others that they are considered one. Humans were created in that image. We can be different from each other, but in relationship we can be part of something bigger. We are not alone—that’s beauty.

We are also relational in that we can relate to God. God craves a close relationship with us so much that a part of God was offered as a sacrifice to make this happen. The death and resurrection of Christ is the most beautiful moment in history. The cross is the point where we come to relate to God. God wants us to be with him in relationship. This is the beauty we should crave—the true, everlasting,  beauty of relating to our amazing Creator.

Author: Jenny Dunham
Jenny Dunham is a graduate of Bethel University with a BA in biblical and theological studies. She is currently a CBE employee.

6 Comments

  1. Comment #96417 posted June 21, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    i know this is not in scripture, but tradition has it that adam and eve before the fall were enveloped in light, and when they sinned this light went out—maybe our obsession with beauty has something to do with this “lost light”—

  2. Comment #96419 posted June 22, 2012 at 9:39 am

    MaggieMay, I’ve often wondered the same. Our first parents may have been enveloped in a spiritual light because of their sinlessness. Because there is no way to determine if this is true or not, we can only wonder.

    Jenny D., I really appreciate your thoughts on beauty. God said humans are good and perfect and well made by his statement that our creation is very good and completes all His creation. Artists often are people with better eyes for beauty. But we should all consider ourselves in the light of God’s love for us.

    Physically, humans are beautiful. Our skin, our form, the way we move. Hands are amazing. Feet are perfect in their use and movement. Humans can dance in beautiful ways. We can sing and play instruments to make beautiful melodies (some are better than others LOL). But the most beautiful things about us are our capacities to love in purity and sacrifice.

    Recently saw some pictures of firemen rescuing animals. I was struck by one picture of a cat that almost died. As she was reviving, she looked at the man carrying her and the man looked tenderly back. That “conversation” was astonishingly precious. Yes, humans have a beauty that when expressed the whole creation desires to see.

  3. JDM
    Comment #96422 posted June 22, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Rich Mullins (Christian musician, “Awesome God,” “Step by Step”) wrote that when we weigh ourselves in comparison to others, Satan has his finger on the scale.

  4. Comment #96430 posted June 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    In my study of philosophy of religion, much has been written on the attributes of God, (goodness, mercy, righteousness, holiness) but one of God’s attributes is beauty. But if we let the world’s idea of what beauty is to hijack God’s idea of beauty we will be left trapped and enslaved to a lie.

    If we are to reflect the light of Christ, to let him shine through us, we cannot allow ourselves to be brainwashed into believing that lie you see on the TV, magazines and billboards.

    But I will also add to the above that in the body of Christ: to impose a dress-code on women and men (expresses or implied) is just as wrong. (Long skirts, no makeup, no jewelry, suit & tie, hair length, etc…)

    But if you have been told you, as a woman or man, you have no value or worth unless you look a certain way, dress a certain way, talk or act a certain way; how can you see yourself the way God sees you?

    I see young people trying desperately to imitate fashions styles that are inappropriate at any age…or are just plain ridiculous.

    But in my reading, beauty is supposed to lead your mind and spirit to the transcendent God. Beauty is within us and shines out of us through a long walk with Jesus…to lead others to him.

    The most beautiful faces I see are the old saints of the church (men and women) singing hymns. That is true beauty.

  5. Christensen
    Comment #96452 posted July 5, 2012 at 4:27 am

    I am currently in China but live in South Korea. During my time in China, I was struck by the diversity of fashions and beauty here. Yes, beauty is cultural and subjective. In China, eyebrows aren’t plucked, but many Korean women completely remove theirs to only pencil them in. In my experience, Korea tends to be more homogenous, so every young woman wants to have “that look”. And it saddens me to see women sell everything to gain it. Sometimes boyfriends are chosen based on how they will provide and how they have “the look”. Unfortunately, in Korea, the number one reason women fall into sex trafficking is because of loan sharks associated with the mafia that provide for a time the ability for them to keep “the look”. But in all countries there is a pursuit after temporary and surface beauty and satisfaction. How can we encourage a pursuit after God’s Kingdom first (Mathew 6:33)? And what are we doing to promote the pursuit of other things? Koreans represent 24% of all sex trafficked women into the US. What are we men doing to uphold inner beauty that longs after God? What can we all do to show that gilded purses and the latest technology are nothing compared to the pursuit of God? If we truly value equality in the gifts of the Spirit and talents, how can we promote that over women feeling that their only assets are surface deep? OK. I’ve said my piece. Any thoughts?

  6. trish
    Comment #96461 posted July 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm

    Christensen, I found your experiences in Korea very interesting. I am about to move to Taiwan and from what I can gather Chinese cultures place a pretty strong emphasis on physical appearance compared to what I’m used to. My Chinese teacher describes everyone firstly on the basis of how young they look. She herself is physically strong and a clever businesswoman, but was rejected by her husbands family as she apparently looks older than him (she isn’t, if its relevant)! I wondered if the obsession with youthful looks is at all related to not having a strong concept of an afterlife- so old means your time left is shorter. Whereas as a Christian older is just closer to heaven. But that theory wouldn’t explain the gender disparity…

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