We live in a world that was created to rejoice in beauty. We reflect on beauty by rejoicing in a colorful sunset, a breath-taking mountain, a well composed photo, or a cute child. Sadly, sin has corrupted even this thing that should be a beautiful way we respond to our Creator. In the corrupted version of "beauty appreciation," we not only rejoice in what we see as beautiful, but we also reject what we do not believe to be comely. An area this tends to affect each of us as women is the area of how culture defines and views female beauty. I have seen two extreme ways to side on this issue: either you embrace how culture defines beauty, or you declare that everyone is beautiful, overlooking serious health issues and obvious marks of sin upon the human body.
All of this came rushing to my attention a couple of years ago when I gave birth to our son. I looked down at my body and didn't recognize what it had become. Stretch marks now ran along my hips, stretched skin covered my stomach, and handfuls of hair were falling out of my head. Everything that defined my worth had instantly been ripped away from me. Of course, there were articles telling me I had "earned my tiger stripes". Other articles pointed out that I was beautiful for what I had created inside of me. Christians were quick to point out that beauty came from the inside. All these things seemed hollow to me—I noticed there was no one lining up to have their skin stretched, and no plastic surgery is out there to create bald spots on your head or make your skin saggy. So the messages that were supposed to comfort me were at best paper thin, and at worst made me feel even guilty for my insecurity.
I began to observe the women around me and noticed something about all of us. This may be obvious, but we are becoming more broken, feeling the effects of sin on our lives in a very real and daily sort of way. Muscles are weaker, eyes dimmer, boobs more saggy, and stomachs growing softer.
At first I rebelled against these earthly “treasures” being taken away from me. Then I had a moment where all the pieces came together. My grandmother died of an aneurysm, and my husband’s grandmother developed health issues which caused her to lose her ability to care for herself. Before my eyes, these two lovely and strong women moved from enjoying time with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, to having a passionate longing for Heaven! It was in this I could find purpose in aging and brokenness. If the amount of character I had now was all I had to take me through the valley of death, I would crumble with the weight, but slowly all the externals are stripped away, and all I am being left with is the need to turn to Christ in faith more and more. As my body weakens and becomes less beautiful, inner beauty strengthens and godly character is developed.
As I become weaker, I am required to press more closely into the One who created me and will sustain me into eternal life. As I look forward to my strength and physical beauty fading, I rejoice in knowing that His strength in me will become stronger until the day when He calls me to Himself, and I can find perfect beauty forever in His presence.
Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that being a wife and a mother requires intentional living. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many little moments as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand.