"You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful, it's true."
~James Blunt, "You're Beautiful"
"Buttercup, a farm girl in the kingdom of Florin (between what's now Sweden and Germany; this was before Europe), wasn't the world's most beautiful woman at age fifteen, nor even the third most beautiful nor the sixth. In point of fact, she was barely in the top twenty, and that based on potential, for she hated fussing over her looks. What she liked to do was to ride her horse and taunt the farm boy."
~William Goldman, "The Princess Bride"
"I want to be beautiful, and make you stand in awe. Look inside my heart and be amazed. I want to hear you say who I am is quite enough. I just want to be worthy of love, and beautiful."
~Bethany Dillon, "Beautiful"
I've been reading this book, "Captivating, Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul". It's a tough one, because it really gets personal. And I tend to cover some things, unwilling to deal with old wounds. So, I had put it aside for a while, to digest, and maybe, to stall.
Then the issue of beauty blindsided me.
I recently got a haricut. A dear friend of the family cuts hair for us, and usually does an amazing job. We love him very much, and are always excited when he comes over to do our hair. Long story short (really short), I guess I didn't make myself clear, because when he was finished with my hair, it was SHORT, and I was devastated. After he left, I cried most of the night. I hated it. And there was nothing I could do about it.
I was very depressed, and when my mom called me on the phone the next day, she could hear in my voice that something was wrong. I explained what had happened, and she listened. I told her I felt like the one attribute I had that I felt was pretty was now gone.
Mom talked for a long time, and I won't go into all the details here, but she did point out that I have had an unhealthy view of my physical appearance since I was very young. Even when I was 14, and weighed 125 pounds, I worried constantly about how people saw me, and was unhappy with my appearance. I realized that I have long felt like people pitied me, because though I have the potential to be very pretty, I have ruined that potential by putting on so much weight, and that is all they see.
Strange that even recently people have commented to my daughter how pretty I am, and how attractive a couple my husband and I make. I have trouble believing them. I mistrust their intentions. How can anyone see me in any way other than the way I see myself. It shouts at me. It's unavoidable.
She asked me what I saw when I looked at my husband, my children, my sister, even herself. She pointed out the physical flaws she had, and asked me, is that what you see? Tough questions. Because I don't see those things when I look at my loved ones. Why was I believing the lie that they saw those things in me. Why did I care whether those who don't love me saw those things or not?
So, mom advised me to be thankful. To step out in surrender to God's perfect plan, and if I couldn't be thankful for the haircut, at least accept it as part of His desire for me, at this time in my life. It was tough, and I knew I couldn't be thankful for it, but I did commit to accepting it.
And when I surrendered, God went to work on my heart.
I spent some time on xanga that afternoon, going from site to site, following comments, and discovering new people. I happened upon a link to a woman's blog. She is a young mother, an attorney, and she has melanoma. I didn't examine her photo, I read her posts. And she was beautiful. I wish I had saved the link, but she taught me what she had to teach that day.
I read posts by some of the most beautiful women I know, whom I have never seen in person, and realized that I find them to be beautiful -- because of their stories, because of their hearts, what they share in their posts. People like Beatrice and Mattie. They share their jokes and poems, and stories, their hopes and dreams, their frustrations, their lives, and I am richer because I have been allowed to read them.
I caught part of a (TiVoed) music awards show, where soldiers were being honored. Six soldiers came out on stage, and they had all been injured in battle. One was a woman. She was short, stocky, white haired, and far from the accepted definition of beauty, but my first thought (whispered by God) was "I'd love to hear her story. Her sacrifice and courage are beautiful."
I thought about the beautiful women in my life, my mother, my aunts, my sister, my daughters. I find their beauty in their lives, their stories. Even my grandmother who sits in a nursing home day after day, and doesn't know us. A theif has stolen her memory, but her story lives on in those who love her, like me.
God reminded me of a recent trip to Oklahoma City, where we spent some time in the mall. There was a Thomas Kincaide Gallery, and my daughters and I wandered in. I have always enjoyed Kincaide's paintings, and as we oohed, and ahhed over our favorites, the young woman working there explained that there were layers upon layers of paint on each canvas. The amazing thing we learned, that day, is that Kincaide's paintings are painted in such a way that they change with the changing light of day. The young woman demonstrated by turning on a light that was directed at one painting, and adjusting it so that it looked like morning light on the painting. Then she adjusted again, so we could see what the painting looked like in the light of a sunset.
As beautiful as those paintings were, the difference made by turning on that light was absolutely breathtaking. I realize, now, that this was a lesson in beauty. We have all been designed by God, and we have our own outward beauty, it's true. But that outward beauty is rather flat, until you turn on the Light. My true beauty, the beauty that is seen by those who care about me, friends, family, God, can only be seen in the light of Life. My story -- and His love shining out from inside of me, that's what makes me beautiful.
It's true, we become more lovely when we know we are loved. And the beautiful people I am grateful to know all shine with a light that does not come from without, but from within. I am blessed to have been exposed to their beauty. And as I see the beauty in others, I can accept that there is beauty in me. And it shines through.
This whole concept is a bit like wearing a new set of clothes -- stiff, and a little uncomfortable -- but I can see how this lesson is changing me. I see myself differently, in light of the beauty I see in others. Little by little, these new clothes are becoming familiar.
God is still working on my heart. And yes, I am reading the book again. But I am closer than I have ever been to trusting Him with this part of my heart, to believing what He says about my beauty, my value, my woman-ness. I am thankful for this lesson.
I might even be thankful for this short haircut, soon.