Reflection on Beauty
I Peter 3:3-4
C.T. Studd, a pioneer for missions world wide once said in response to a letter his mom wrote him inquiring about what his future wife looked like, "I suppose you want to know about her. Well, to tell you the truth, I can't tell you much except about her spiritual life and her life before the world… She ain't very big, and as regards her face, well, she has the beauty of the Lord her God upon her,which is worth more than all the beauty of the whole world." And earlier,describing who proposed, "She said I wrote to her; I say she spoke to me,I do not say with her eyes, not with her tongue-she was keeping that in reserve-she spoke with her acts. I did not marry her for her pretty face; I married her for her handsome actions toward the Lord Jesus Christ and those He sent her to save." C.T. Studd's perspective on how he viewed beauty in the woman he wanted to marry illuminated the lies I had secretly allowed myself to believe about what true beauty was.
My desire in this post is to ask a couple questions that will hopefully lead to the men who read this being more intentional with what they speak into women, and the women who read this being able to realize what true biblical beauty looks like.
So, as any good southern gentleman would say, "Ladies first."
Ladies, my question for you is "What reflection of beauty do you view yourself through and present to others?" The more simplistic way of asking this question would be, "How do you look at yourself?" I don't mean literally. It isn't the act of looking at a reflection of yourself that is inherently problematic, but it's the lens in which you look through to see yourself that can drop lies like pebbles that create ripples and distorted images of where your true beauty lies. Are you looking through the eyes of today's media? Today's culture? The symbolic interaction you have with bad influences around you? You see, as lies are dropped into the lake you use to see your reflection in, they create these ripples; some small and others large. Regardless of the size of the lie though,your reactions and the outcomes are the same. You squint and gaze deeper and deeper into the now distorted image of who you are. The ripple effect of being focused so much on a now distorted image will always yield the same end result;closed eyes, broken hearts, and a body that is sinking in ever changing waters.This is, after all, the result of looking at a reflection of yourself through the lenses of this world. A world who's culture and definition of beauty is inconstant change, and it is not only exhausting to keep up with but is distracting from who God is.
Peter addresses this in his first letter "to God's elect" in I Peter 3:3-4, when talking about where a wife should find "unfading" beauty saying, "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 in God's sight." Women, instead of chasing after the ever illusive reflection of self that is pleasing to the world, focus on being the reflection of Jesus to others.
First, "It should be that of your inner self." My favorite picture of this is in the NASB translation and words it as follows,"But let it be the hidden person of the heart…" Women, your true beauty isn't found in what you can see in a mirror, but what urges others to come in close, seek after, and see what is the inexpressible joy of God's love poured out to others.
Second, "...the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit." The Greek word translated as gentle here is "Praus" and could also be translated as meek. The meek (praus) woman is able to say, "God, in this situation (whatever it might be), you are in control. You are sovereign and you rule over all. You have a purpose and that one aspect of Your purpose is to make me more like Christ." Your true beauty, women, is being a reflection of Christ to others after all, right?
Lastly, Peter isn't saying here that putting on a dress and some make up is wrong. However, Peter uses the loudness of braided hair, gold jewelry, and fine clothes in contrast to a gentle and quiet spirit for a reason. The more you seek out an outward reflection that is pleasing in the eyes of the world, not only the more you are distracted from being a reflection of Christ, but also the more those who are lost are distracted from seeing Him in you. Don't let your outward appearance keep others from seeing "the hidden person of the heart" who is Jesus Christ.
Now women, I know you're thinking to yourselves, "That's not totally realistic. I need to look physically attractive to catch a good guy. That is their focus after all." And you will exhaust yourself with tireless efforts of changing and altering what is already beautiful to begin with. A great friend and mentor of mine, Matt Lantz, said this in his blog-book "The Dating Blook",
"...the only recourse we have to make ourselves more attractive is to believe that we are already attractive to begin with.
Yeah, isn’t that a weird idea? Just be the person you were created to be…
“But isn’t that arrogant to assume that I’m already attractive?”
You didn’t make yourself attractive to begin with! If that were possible, then yes. But since you don’t handcraft your own genetics, you can’t really take credit for what you look like."
Matt hits on a great point, "Just be the person you were created to be…" As women of God,you are called to be a reflection of Jesus who says in Matt. 11:29 "...I am gentle (Praus) and humble in heart."
However, symbolic interaction states that "Meanings arise through social interaction among individuals. People use the information derived from an interaction as a guide for their own behaviors. This information tells them howto think, feel, or act. And, different people will often come away from an interaction with different interpretations of it." So, now I want to talk to the men out there.
What beauty do you project onto or speak into women? Are you speaking biblical identity into the women around you or are you the one pointing at their reflection and throwing pebbles into the lake? A beauty that is placed on a woman which is focused on outward adornment is an ever changing expectation that a woman can never fully achieve.Instead, speak and affirm the beauty of Jesus into women. Do not speak expectations into her, but speak the value that is found in the gospel to her.These two verses that Peter wrote can be just as much of a lesson for men as it is for women. Scripture lays out what a woman's true biblical beauty should look like and too often we as men suppress that truth with the lie that physical beauty is of greater value. This is where C.T. Studd has challenged me personally. I want to pursue and eventually marry a woman that I can truly say has "the beauty of the Lord her God upon her." The way in which C.T.Studd spoke the value of the gospel into his future wife gave her no choice but to see herself through God's eyes.
Too often we throw boulders of doubt into a reflection that is striving to be "gentle and quiet." After all, a distorted view of beauty is where the lie of pornography rests; not that it shows too much of a human being, but that it doesn't show enough. It doesn't show the Godliness in a human; just the empty form. It is not too far of a stretch to say then that we are looking at pornography each time our eyes see only the empty form of a woman and choose not to see the Godliness in them. It is our jobs as brothers in Christ and men of God to be intentional about speaking value, worth, and true biblical beauty into our sisters in Christ and the women we pursue a dating/marriage relationship with! The fall took love and inverted it to be lust. But, as Peter writes earlier, "praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,in His great mercy He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." It is because of the Gospel that love has overcome the flesh, and it is that Gospel that is vital to speak to those around you daily.
In conclusion, Peter is telling women that God is the first and primary lens to see yourself through. It is through this lens that you are able to display "the hidden person of the heart" through meekness (Praus) and a quiet spirit. Meekness conveys the idea of tenderness and graciousness. Finally, women, you are beautiful. Be who you are created to be. Let's get practical now. Put a post-it note on your mirror that says "Be a reflection of Jesus" to simply remind you not to seek the outward reflection of the world, but seek out opportunities to be the reflection of Jesus to others.
Men, God has created you to be a leader for women. You are called to preach the Gospel to them daily. Reminding them of their beauty in Christ Jesus and speaking the value of God, who thought them so precious that He became man to rescue them, into them byway of both your words and actions. Finally, men, do not look at women as an empty form, but learn from C.T. and search for a woman who has "the beauty of the Lord her God upon her." Let's get practical again. Change the background of your phone to a handwritten note to yourself saying, "Speak the value of the Gospel and not just an empty form."