The Power of Beauty
“We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves.”
– CS Lewis
We were sitting in his parents’ basement. It was a warm Memorial Day weekend and we had been dating for 4 months. He closed his eyes and pulled the bow over the strings. The most beautiful music came from the curved wooden frame of the cello. The look on his face was one of bliss, of being re-united with a lover. The first time Atticus played the cello for me – the prelude to Bach’s cello suite #1 – I closed my eyes and let the beauty of the music wash over me. I offered a prayer to God: please let me always hear him play. Please let me always love this man who loves beauty.
I married him, so it would seem God granted my prayer. Beauty is at the heart of every love story. I remember the first time Atticus called me beautiful. It was during our second date; we had gone to the Art Institute of Chicago and seen some famous paintings and sculptures. It was a sunny spring day with a decided chill in the air. We were walking arm in arm down Michigan Ave. He looked over at me, smiled and said, “You’re beautiful.” In my head, I gasped.
Any woman who has ever heard the man she loves tell her she’s beautiful knows, those words are one of the most powerful drugs in existence. Especially if they are not words you hear all that often. For me, I couldn’t remember the last time anyone, let alone a man I liked, called me beautiful. When he said that, and the look in his eyes confirmed that he meant it, I felt my heart fall into my stomach. I think you know what I mean. It’s like a butterfly landing on your shoulder, seeing the tree on Christmas morning, and the first flowers of spring all rolled into one. To be called beautiful is itself, an experience of beauty.
To call a woman beautiful, to tell her that’s who she is resonates with something deep within her. It doesn’t much matter if the woman is a model or plainer than plain; it’s a truth we all want to know. I am beautiful. I am seen. There’s nothing quite like it.
Dostoevsky once said, “Beauty will save the world.” Of course, he was right. God is Beauty. Everything on this earth which is beautiful is ultimately a reflection of God, who is Beauty, and it is God, the Creator of the world, who has and will save it. On another level, we can say that the earthly things which are beautiful have a role to play in saving the world, as anything which is truly beautiful will draw the mind and heart to think of God’s grandeur.
So everything, from a symphony to a spider, has the potential to elicit a response of beauty. Even more than any of these other works of Creation though, woman has the ability to elicit this response. Men and women both bear the image of God, yet we do so uniquely as a man or as a woman.
As women, we bear the image of a God who is ultimately relational and beautiful. God is, at the core, a relationship of persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – and God is, as the core, Beauty itself.
It’s not news, but we live in a fallen world, which has, among other things, perverted beauty. Particularly the beauty of a woman. Attacking the beauty of woman is one of Satan’s purest delights. Instead of woman’s beauty being a balm to soothe the tired souls of man, it has become a weapon by which we try to assert our power. Instead of being the relational, deep, inviting peace which God intended from the beginning, we are told to hone our “power” and “hotness” like a sword being sharpened for battle.
Social diseases like prostitution and pornography further invade and manipulate our notions of what beauty is. It becomes about a waist or cup size, about making women less human rather than more. It becomes skin-deep, when in reality, it is the exact opposite. It becomes something exclusionary, rather than the essence of who we are.
Every woman is beautiful, because we are created by a God who is Beauty, and we bear His image. For every woman that exists, there are as many ways to be beautiful. Beauty is not just something we are, it is what we are destined to be. After the final resurrection, we will all be transfigured. We will all finally see the beauty that is at our core.
When we embrace our beauty, and place ourselves in the presence of Beauty Himself, we become more beautiful. We bear the image of God more and more into the world. The light of our beauty shines through and over the darkness of this world. We can, each in our own way, overcome the culture of death that surrounds us.
I’m not saying it’s easy; we all have wounds when it comes to beauty. Mine run deep. It’s taken many years, thousands of desperate prayers from a tear-soaked heart, and the power of God’s transforming grace for me to be able to look in the mirror on a good day and call myself beautiful, and on a bad day, to silence the chorus of criticism in my head.
We each have our story to tell. Some are more painful than others, but make no mistake about it: You are beautiful. In a real, tangible way. You are seen, you are known, and if you let it, your beauty can change the world.