Saturday, February 14, 2009

True Beauty

We come, and we go.
A simple statement of fact, yet a great deal occurs between those two words. We walk a great journey between the lines that mark the beginning and the end, start and finish. Whether our tread along the way is heavy or light, no step goes uncounted by Him who made us.
We are sometimes granted the honor of making the journey with someone, sometimes a longer portion, more commonly the shorter. More often than not the length of time we have together is the least important property of it. The presence is itself enough, for those of uncommon beauty bring us joy.
The joy is in the journey we live between the lines.
We live too often by accident when we should be living with intention.
How many times have I missed the joy in the journey by waiting for things to happen rather than pursuing what is clearly before me? How many times have I chosen complacency over action?
At some point in my life I innocently embraced the comfort of a “routine”, and in so doing somewhere, in the process of living, I became a man of sorrow. The loss of someone or something along the way caught me off guard. I began to concentrate more on what I’d lost than on all that I had gained in the presence of the beauty God provided in that relationship, however unfairly brief I thought it to be.
I think too much about what “might have been” if I’d said or done something just a little bit differently, but “might have been” never happened and never will and it would never have been as perfect as our imagination allows. Hindsight is a useless thing sometimes.
I feel sorrow at my loss, but I must always remember that there would be no sorrow had joy not been there first, but remembering as well that joy does not depend on sorrow for its existence. It is in the beauty of an uncommon nature that joy is inspired. It is not the youthful face and form that offers True Beauty, but the joy and love that is reflected from within and visible on the surface of whatever form we happen to have. Oh, the rest of the world would have us believe otherwise, but that is only their attempt at establishing standards that allow them to dictate the standard of our own worth. If the focus of beauty is maintained externally it can then be marketed and controlled. It becomes a commodity to be used to conform us to some random ideal, and at the same time rob us of our individual natures. I found that it was the presence and pursuit of True Beauty that brought me joy and gave me depth.

Far too often I am overcome by sorrow in my relationship with God because I think so much of all that He has had to forgive in me when I should be overcome by joy because He has forgiven me. Furthermore, He has forgiven me intentionally, by design, with a desire to bring me joy. That is True Beauty.
I became a man of sorrows unintentionally. I must become a man of joy intentionally. I must actively pursue that which does not come to me by nature. I must actively recognize uncommon beauty, and allow myself to be surprised, no – astonished-, by joy. In this I honor those who are lost to me by allowing their gift to me to be recognized.
In this I also honor my God, for this was His gift to me through them, and it is His astonishing Beauty that is reflected in them.
So here is the truth I have discovered:
True Beauty is the reflection of God in His creation.
I have a friend who was married to his wife for 59 years when she died. There was never a doubt of the depth of their love. As she lay dying he told her, “I fell in love with you all over again.”
They saw the Beauty of God reflected in each other. Beauty resides in their love, not their bodies. We are but mere reflections of the source of beauty. It is for us to reflect the beauty of God into the darker corners of the hearts of this world. And it should be said here that this kind of love is truly the stuff of legend. We look at famous relationships and exclaim how good they are without ever seeing anything beyond the superficial shell of the reality that leads to the breakdown of that same relationship. The romantic stories we have grown up on are usually tragic or artificial. We make a relationship important because of the celebrity involved, and at the same time we ignore the relationships that have existed longer than you or I have been alive. I know so many marriages that are the image of the example I want mine to be. They have lasted for a lifetime with an ever increasing love. We see little flashes of history and emphasize what we see in the briefest point that represents the climax of centuries of effort by all those who remain nameless. Henry Fabre once said, “History celebrates the battlefields whereon we meet our death, but scorns to speak of the plowed fields whereby we thrive; it knows the names of kings' bastards but cannot tell us the origin of wheat. This is the way of human folly.”
In our relentless pursuit of our future we ignore what we see as the shackles of our past rather than a foundation on which to build it. We have taken a devastating turn for the worse when we ignore True Beauty in favor of the worthless and inconsistent imitation that this world has to offer.
Love is beauty, and God is Love, therefore He is also the source and definition of Beauty. The recognition of Beauty is the “calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1) Love is the knowledge we are called to put into practice. Beauty is in the intangibles. It lies not in face and form, but in action, in relationship. It is not the person we love, or who loves us where beauty is found. No, it is in the love itself. The love we choose to take part in.
When we see beauty as something outside of ourselves we can be more confident in the beauty we have. We are each capable of reflecting True Beauty because we were all made in His image. We were not meant to hold anything in. We were made to overflow. When we choose to partake in the Beauty He supplies we become vessels of the Uncontainable. The flaws we perceive within ourselves are irrelevant to our ability to reflect True Beauty. Are you concerned that your hair is the wrong color, or that someone else’s is better than yours, or that someone else has hair? Is there a scar you’re ashamed of? Are you too thin or too fat? Is there a pimple on your face that is changing the course of your life somehow? Have you been abused or misused somewhere along the way?
I wonder; are we afraid to love beyond our own shame because we are afraid that others will be unable to as well, and thereby emphasize our own perceived shortcomings in the process of pointing out theirs? Have I not been guilty of this in my own life? Of course.
The problem lies in the fact that we perceive our flaws as limiting our potential for beauty, but we do not realize that we are not the source of the beauty we have. True Beauty is revealed in our flaws, because we have learned to express love to one another despite, or even through, the flaws. That is where the love and beauty of God are truly reflected in us. When Paul says “when I am weak then I am strong” (2Corinthians 12:10) I think he speaks of an aspect of this beauty, for it is in our own weakness that the strength of God is evident. When we reach the end of our resources, whether it is in the area of strength or beauty, God takes over so that whatever we cannot finish He does. But we must see the success of it through His eyes, not our own. It is the direct result of the touch of God. In the recognition of the Source of Beauty we come to that final threshold where a single step across will bring us into the presence of more than we could ever know, but all that we could not survive without.
You see God made True Beauty to be given and taken. He made it to be freely shared. No cost was attached for our sake, because the presence of True Beauty in us is the only way we will ever live beyond our deaths.
The day will come when we will all be sitting quietly together. We will gaze upon one another, and see gray hair, wrinkles, liver spots, and joints swollen and disfigured by arthritis. And given all that, we will at last realize that even then, each of us is still, and will always be, Truly Beautiful. For each of us is cast in the image of God Himself, and there is no Other worthy if imitation.
©Dan Bode 2003