My daughter has been covered in prayer long before her conception. She was longed for, prayed for, desired and adored. We had two miscarriages before she was conceived, one of which was on the way to my grandmothers funeral. We are well aware what a beautiful and sacred gift life is.
Photo: Christy Martin Photography
I quickly affirmed her yet again, “yes love, you are beautiful, and your heart is beautiful, and you are smart and funny…” She seemed content with the answer, but I was not. What was it in her, that despite being constantly affirmed of her beauty, caused her to doubt it? Is it the curse of women to not be able to see our beauty? To constantly question it?
Of course our culture communicates to us on a daily basis that unless we are 5’9 or taller weigh 120 pounds or less and impeccably dressed, we aren’t beautiful. We go to the mall and the standard of beauty is wearing racy lingerie and posing provocatively. In the grocery store line we see that unless we have an intense work out plan and aren’t back to pre-baby weight 3 months after having a baby we aren’t beautiful. If we happen to turn our tv on, it is vacant of real women…everyone with their hair done and make up on, perfectly dressed and no one over a size 6. With everything around us communicating that we aren’t beautiful we have to fight to believe that we are.
I went to my sons school to take valentines cupcakes in. Y’all, we had 4 snow days and the very first day back I spent almost the entire day at their school, that is sacrificial love! While I was at lunch with my oldest, he decided he needed a second lunch, because boys really do eat you out of house and home. While in the lunch line the lunch lady commented on how beautiful my daughter was and then said “just like her mom, you’re beautiful too” to which I retorted “as are you, you are beautiful!” And she was, she was about 60 years old and was rocking the cutest pixie cut. The graying color of her hair brought out the pinkness in her lips, and the wrinkles around her eyes told of a face that at one point had smiled a lot, and she had the most clear and striking blue eyes. And yet she denied it. She denied her beauty, refused it.
How often do we do the same? Our husband walks in and says we look beautiful and because we are wearing sweats and have no make up on, we deny we are beautiful. When our friends tell us how good our hair looks we excuse it away, rejecting the idea of beauty being found in us.
My biggest fear is not just that we refuse to see our beauty, but that we have let society define beauty in our minds as well, and that we no longer see it in each other. That we have become so accustomed to denying beauty in ourselves, we deny it in others.
Maybe this is more important than seeing it in ourselves. Maybe by starting to see beauty in each other, verbalizing it, confirming it, claiming it, we may simultaneously free the scales from our own eyes to see our beauty as well. What if being a beauty seer, keeps me from being a beauty denier?
My husbands grandmother is dying. She is like my own grandmother, and introduces me as her granddaughter, which I adore. The legacy his grandparents are leaving is incredible. They have lost two children, and yet praise the name of Jesus, they love their children, grandchildren and great-grand children well and fiercely. While on the phone with grandpa (who is at the same time undergoing chemo for cancer) he was talking about what was going on, how she’s struggling with bed sores, is hardly awake, how he has to carry her to the bathroom, feed her, and in the midst of that, he broke down and said “she’s just so beautiful.”
I was so struck by the profoundness of it. When most people would see no beauty, love sees beauty.
I want to see like that, to live like that. If we believe (I do) that we are created by a great and magnificent God, made in his image, than we have to believe that each person we meet has a bit of their creator in them, beauty. I don’t think it’s enough to just believe it though, we need to practice seeing it.
The seeing gives way to believing, for others and ourselves.
I want to look at the lunch lady and see the beauty of her laugh wrinkles, and servant hands.
Go to my sons’ room and watch his teacher laugh a big beautiful laugh that lights up her whole room, and see beauty.
At the grocery store, see the beauty in the worn hands of the checkout lady who serves her family well, in her face that glows as she talks about her daughter.
Observe the beauty of my friend as she graciously disciplines in love and grace, acting as Christ does with us.
Gather in community and watch heads thrown back in laughter, shy smiles and interaction, awkward interjections, new friends becoming old ones, conversation among sisters, and be overwhelmed at it’s beauty and sacredness.
To see stretch marks, a pouchy belly, mandatory support and incision marks as a reminder of life, and the body that grew and birthed it.
To see each wrinkle as a lesson life has taught, and wisdom born.
To see calloused feet as reminders of hard work that was done, and a body that enabled it.
Each gray hair as a reminder of a hardship overcome.
To see dirty and ragged fingernails as a reminder of the beauty of time spent playing and not in perfection.
To see dark circles as proof of motherly sacrifice loosing sleep while feeding, soothing, loving.
To see the twirling, dancing and singing of my daughter, and the beauty that she really believes she is a princess, just because her daddy told her so.
I want to see the beauty in others so that maybe I will be more believing of the beauty in me.
I want to be a beauty seer, and not denier.
For myself, my daughter, my friends, my sisters, for women everywhere and for love.
Because love sees beauty, when it seems like there is none.