Someone paid me a compliment last night. It's not that this never happens I might receive a compliment once a day or so, sometimes more. They usually have more to do with my competency at accomplishing things than anything else. But for some reason this particular compliment caused me to draw a sharp breath in and stop dead in my tracks.
"You are a beautiful girl, Shannon."
Thankfully I recovered quickly enough to say thank you but my reaction was noticeable if not to the woman who paid me it, certainly very marked to me.
Two words stuck out to me: beautiful and girl. Now of course this woman was in her 70s or thereabouts but no one has called me a girl in YEARS. I have been considered used and unvaluable, relegated to the married unattractive childbearing status for so long it's hard to believe that anyone would consider calling me a girl. For goodness sake I'll be 32 in a few short days. Girls are my baby sitter's age. And being a girl in our society is something to be envied. I've swallowed the lie. The lie that once you hit a certain age as a woman in this world you lose your value. The race against the mercilessness of time. Once the stretch marks take over and the boobs have been used for anything besides sex you have lost your cultural esteem. You can no longer be a gorgeous woman and therefore you have no worth. Because what do we want today, we want beauty.
That's not to say beauty is bad. It is SO NOT BAD. Beauty is awesome and God given. If you don't believe that beauty has been given to us directly by our creator you haven't spent much time in nature. Did you know that biologists can find no reason for the necessity of flowers? They aren't essential. There are plenty of plants that produce fruit or vegetation that we could use as pollinators. If we took all the simple only flower producing plants out of our world we would still be able to produce food. There are other pollinators. Why did God create flowers? Because he loves beauty.
Back to the compliment. In my head I lost my beautiful girl status somewhere in my mid twenties. I became a mother lost all my external, physical beauty in that process (my ex and I shared this opinion). And my girl status flew out the window somewhere around the same time. Besides all those years of childbearing, nursing and sleepless nights will make anyone feel tired and old. And years of wearing nothing but yoga pants, maternity clothes and nursing tops will make the most confident of women feel unattractive.
But the deeper questions is this: why did this mean so much me? I'm cherishing it in my heart. I wrote it down and now I'm writing about it. If I'm shining light on the lie of this world that beautiful girls are what we should strive to be, then why does my heart feel so touched that someone would consider me one? Is this more lie swallowing? More self-deception? More finger pointing at others who have skewed value systems, all the while I'm hoarding, hiding and possessing that value system myself?
I'm not sure, to be honest. I don't know. Is the cherishing of this in my heart, the warmth that it brought to that dark place in my soul bad for me? I don't know.
I do know this. My beauty is within. Whatever I have of it. If you add me up on an attractive scale I might tip slightly to the positive side, but it would be slight. Somehow though life has told me that not only is my physical beauty nonexistent, my internal soul beauty is as well.
And that is dangerous. Sure is it fun to turn heads, ABSOLUTELY. Does that often lead to sin for everyone involved, the head turner and the one looking? Yep. Sure does.
But to know that you're beautiful on the inside. To know that your value, your intrinsic worth is something that no one can ever take from you, that is what is truly important. And when you feel that the world or a man or a woman or a god has robbed you of that, that somehow you have given away that part of yourself that was beautiful. That is an awful place to be. Can you squander your value, your soul? Yes. Can it disappear? No.
This is not to say that appreciating physical beauty is a bad thing. Are beautiful people fun to see? Can we not appreciate someone who puts time and effort into their appearance? Absolutely we can. That is good. Putting time and effort into your own appearance is not bad (says the woman who's guilty pleasure is buying clothes ;-). The problem becomes when we begin to use those people, or when we replace our desire for what is good - God, with our desire to look awesome or be with someone who looks awesome.
It's so tempting to throw a bunch of Bible verses around about being created in the image of God and stuff like that. But most of you know what the Word says. You know that you aren't supposed to use your beauty or anyone else's. That's not what I'm talking about here. What I want you think about is how you view yourself. What type of beauty is most important in your life? Are you chasing something that is going to decay and disappear or are you chasing soul beauty that will last far into eternity? When you pin those images of rock hard bodies on your thinspiration boards are you valuing your body above your soul? Are you valuing the earthly above the eternal? Do those Ryan Gosling memes nourish your soul or just your sex drive? I think most of us know the answer to that one. ;-) (yes, Ryan is hot, a little too much for me personally but to each is own)
God values you people. He loves you and finds you beautiful, the number on the scale and the lack of rock hard abs are irrelevant.
You are His Beauty. Treat yourself with the care the Lover of the Universe gives to you.