With love and hope in our hearts how do we, as Disciples of Christ, measure beauty? How do we see it, not only in the world around us, but in the people who surround us?
When this question runs through my mind there’s a verse I often like to consider. It’s from the story of David, when the prophet Samuel sought to anoint a new king over Israel to replace Saul, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
You see, the shepherd boy, when placed side by side with the other sons of Jesse, standing beside his brothers, was not much to look at. In fact, when considered with them, it could hardly be thought that he would have the capacity to lead, to offer the strong guidance that the nation itself needed. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, it wasn’t the strength, or the height or any of the outward appearances. After all, He had Saul, a mighty man of renown, strong and charismatic, as the chosen King and it had met with such disappointment as He had watched him waver to the point where his fall would become inevitable. Now the Lord sought a different sort of man to lead His people.
Still, it wasn’t hard for Samuel to fall into a trap that each of us can so easily find ourselves amidst, looking at the strongest, the best looking, the mightiest as the one who catches our eyes somehow believing that they have more to offer because of their appearance. We so often see beauty as an outward appearance, as only being significant and worthy of our attention if it somehow can merit a second look from our eyes. We see it as it is, by the standards of our present age, and by the focus that is given to it by society as a whole. It is there that we mark worth and assign value by what captivates our eyes and captures our attention.
Yet the truth is true beauty is marked by what is in our hearts, by the love, the hope and the inspiration that we offer in the courage and the perseverance of our spirits. It is in the wisdom that we show, it is in the way that we offer our hand to one another to be a force for good, edifying and uplifting them, by the charity that spurs on optimism despite whatever despair it may offer. Each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) have, by the power of God, an enormous capacity to offer of ourselves through the gifts that we have. This is the true mark of beauty, the true mark of our strength.
Perhaps, at times, we don’t see ourselves as we should. We look in the mirror and we see our every physical imperfection, whether it is real or perceived. We hate our glasses, we’re not model thin, our hair is falling out, our body doesn’t look like we think it should. Perhaps, at times, we look at others, and we don’t necessarily see them for who they are. We see them for what we can only see with our eye. By this sight we don’t even always necessarily know what it is about their appearance, maybe it’s a little bit of everything, but we just find them to be unattractive.
As imitators of God, given to His love, captured by His grace, we need to strive to see more in ourselves and in others, to see beauty for what it really is. It is not in waist sizes or in hairlines or in any other physical standard that we can mark it by. It is in what is given, and the guiding presence of a spirit and a soul, a heart and a mind given to the greatest capacity we have to live in the image of God that we are created in. It comes through a God who is, in and of Himself, love. It is to take the lessons of Christ and to use it to create a spiritual makeover, one that focuses on the elegance and the strength of our inward appearances.
It is only in this way that we see true beauty for what it is as we let it encompass our being. It is being moved not by the vain eyes but by the pure heart in the wonders of all of God’s creation. In this we become more than we ever hoped to be as the character of our splendor is marked by the blessed exquisiteness of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who offered us the greatest example of what it truly means to be attractive.