What is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen? Is it a person? A place? A moment? We are all drawn to beauty. We love to watch a sunset or rise, to see a waterfall at the top of a mountain, or marvel at the starlit sky. Our country spends millions of dollars on products that promise to make us more beautiful. Society places such a strong emphasis on women being beautiful; on the priority of doing all we can to successfully be attractive. My definition of beauty has changed throughout the years. During my middle school, high school, and a portion of college, I would spend hours and money (thanks dad) on buying products and clothes that would make me beautiful. I would look in the mirror over and over again just to double check that I was satisfied enough with the reflection I saw. Let’s not even start on the hundreds of Dairy Queen blizzards and hamburgers that I missed out on all in the name of beauty. At the time, my definition revolved around being thin and fashionable. The problem was, there was always someone thinner, always someone trendier. This was in a time before selfies and instagrams, and I am thankful for this because I cringe when I think about the egotistical, self-focused things I would have posted. The problem with basing our beauty on the external is that not only is it fleeting, it is also subjective. What you think is beautiful might be totally different than what I do. This season of life left me feeling insecure and totally consumed with self. Sadly, if we are honest, this is the reality of so many of our minds. We are so obsessed with being beautiful without realizing we are fighting a losing battle. The thing is, external beauty absolutely fades. Money can buy us all the surgery, make up, anti-aging products, and outfits this world has to offer, but time always wins and when all those things are stripped away, our external appearance is always left desiring. We are fighting a losing battle.
Fast forward to today. Sweat pants, not an ounce of make-up on my face, and a big cup of creamer with a splash of coffee sits in front of me. I feel beautiful. The reflection may say otherwise, and if you looked at a before and after picture from a few years past, the damage certainly has been done. God has freed me up to know that my beauty is absolutely not based on me. For you see, there is a kind of beauty that surpasses what others think of us and what the mirror reflects. There is something within us that is given room to bubble up when all else is stripped. I had a friend describe this season of life in that way and I could not agree more. I have been stripped. Of comfort. Of control. Of my own selfish desires. Of expectations. And, I feel beautiful. And free. And oh so very loved. Don’t you see friends? Beauty is not dependent on that which we see. Our beauty is absolutely connected to how intimately tied we are with our Maker. I am learning to see beauty in the imperfection, beauty in the mess, because I see all the more room for God to bring beauty from the ashes. I have seen it in my own life and I have seen it in the lives of those around me.
At the end of the day, we all prefer the real thing. We don’t want a generic, fake version of the truth. We want authenticity. In fact, we could all agree that we find someone or something beautiful when it appears effortless. When anything is forced, it is awkward and undesirable. That’s the thing about beauty. What is beautiful in you is going to be different than what is beautiful in me, but one thing I can promise you is this: it has to come from the inside out. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all mentality; no. This is us all being made in the image of God and creatively designed by our Maker, therefore possessing much, much, worth. In Mark 14, Jesus and some of his friends were eating dinner when a woman came and poured a costly jar of ointment on Jesus’ head. Some people at the table were appalled that she had done such a thing, claiming that she should have sold the ointment to give to the poor and that it had been a waste. Jesus could not disagree more. He said,
“Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me…she has done what she could.” (portions of verses 7 and 8).
Jesus found beauty in the woman, not based on what she looked like but rather on her heart towards Him. After all, if God thought external beauty was important, don’t you think He would have made Jesus Himself attractive? Isaiah 53:2 reminds us that there was no beauty in Jesus’ appearance that should make Him desirable. The beauty people saw in Jesus was based solely on who He was, not what He looked like.
I can promise you this: you will never be comfortable in your own skin until you are comfortable in your own soul. There you will find a beauty that is unfading, that has nothing to do with you but all to do with the One whose image you were created in. My encouragement to you today is this: find what is beautiful in you and look for what is beautiful in those around you. It won’t be found in your clothes, your body, your make-up, your job, your abilities, or your performance. Dig deeper. You might be surprised that it is often in the broken, messy, and wounded places that beauty is most magnificently displayed. You are made in His image and He has made you oh so beautiful. Only He can make beautiful things out of dust.