Dear Rebecca Claire,
Just 10 weeks and 3 days from now, you are scheduled to be here in our arms. Just 3 days ago we celebrated our first Easter with you! How fun it will be next year, Lord willing, we can dress you up to come to church with us, to sing the songs of worship and remembrance of our dear Savior who died for our sins?! How beautiful and awful is the cross.
But it is a thing of beauty. Beauty. A word that everyone defines differently. A word that provokes love, lust, anger, jealousy and awe. So what is beauty, really?
1 Peter 3:4 “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson “As we grow old, the beauty steals inward.”
Miss Piggy (The Muppets) “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”
Marie Stopes “You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul’s own doing.”
All of these sources insist that beauty comes from within, but our culture publishes magazines and pictures models who appear flawless on the outside and they scream at us saying “THIS is beautiful!” “Look at THIS!” “Strive for THIS!” “Be like THIS!” And somehow, the same people who are striving and struggling and working to look like THIS are speaking a false understanding of inward beauty, almost as if they feel like the more they say what they wish their heart felt, the more they’ll believe it and be capable of ceasing the inward striving and despair over not being THIS.
Everyone wants to be beautiful. It is so apparent with the slogans popping up, like the most popular these days – “Strong is the new skinny.” Coming from someone who is strong and muscular and athletic, I initially loved the thought that this could be the new picture of beautiful. But after careful thought, I realized how skewed this too was in light of true beauty.
On a strictly genetic note, every single person is created by God to have a certain set of chromosomes from their mother and their father. Every person’s ideal image looks differently – percentage of body fat, muscle, bone density, skin color, eye color, hair color/texture, etc. My ideal weight at 5’6″ looks very different from the neighbor’s ideal weight at 5’6″.
On a more practical level, every person will use their bodies differently – some for light labor, some for olympic gold medals, some for typical day-in and day-out activities with friends. This contributes to different types of muscle, different areas of tone, and different purposes and functions of the bodies we were given.
I pray that I will teach you this as you grow – not only with my words but with my actions, my attitude, and my awareness of my own beauty. Beauty is a gift. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s masterpiece. Beauty is not something we strive for and it is not something we work towards. I am beginning to see that any area of our lives that we attempt to control – whether it be the food we eat, the exercise we get, the choices we make – the control we exhibit is us trying to take our beauty into our own hands. Definitely be healthy and be happy. Yes, there is such a thing as “too skinny” and “overweight,” and we need to take care that our control does not land us in a place where our bodies, Christ’s temples, are now a burden on ourselves and others because of poor choices and poor health. But our motives are key. Our hearts’ intent will develop and grow our inward and outward beauty if our aim is Christ and not beauty in and of itself.
One last image of beauty – the cross. As I said before, the cross is beautiful and awful all in the same breath. The cross is an ever-present reminder of our sin and the death that must result. While Jesus himself is perfect, the cross is not, and is a display of a spotless man taking the punishment worthy of murderers and thieves – a punishment bestowed by sinners who crucified Jesus in selfishness. Beauty is not perfect, and as products of the Fall, we are born with imperfections. We are born with diseases, disfigurements, and differences. We are born with spiritual and emotional tendencies that cause us to fail and abuse our beautiful bodies and souls.
But we are perfect pictures of beauty. You, me, your father, your future friends, your future spouse. Skinny. Tall. Short. Muscular. Soft around the edges. Type A. Type B. Mellow. Zealous. Size 4. Size 12. All of the things I listed above have been labeled imperfections by somebody. But we are ALL: Made in His image. Created to do His work. Filled with His Spirit.
What a wondrous and awful thing to realize that beauty is not perfection. During this pregnancy I have joked with your dad that “I’m getting fat.” His response to me has been to roll his eyes and say, “No, you’re pregnant.” It’s a harmless thing when I say it and my heart doesn’t believe it at all, yet I like to tell myself lies – lies that beauty is perfection, and that I’m not perfect so I must not be beautiful. It’s not true, though, and I’m here to tell you that I am thankful for the beauty the Lord has given me; it’s taken you for me to see a lot of the Truth I’ve been missing. I used to be self-conscious of my muscular frame, but now I see how well it carries you. I used to be worried about getting stretch marks or cellulite, but now I see that they are medals and stripes of honor for carrying you. I used to eat healthy and workout to make myself look “more beautiful,” but now I eat healthy to nourish you, and I exercise to make it easier to carry and deliver you. I see how other purposes of my body, mind, and personality have been missed due to my narrow idea of beauty.
My heart towards beauty has changed, Rebecca Claire, and I pray that it will continue steadfastly in this path so that I might teach you that our bodies are temples of a wondrous and Holy God, and He made us for specific purposes! Each person’s body, personality, mind and soul are for different wonderful purposes. Yours will be beautiful and wonderful too. But if you forget, I’ll be here to remind you that all your flaws, all your strengths, all your imperfections were planned. And we can look to the cross together to see how beautiful and wonderful and awe-inspiring His purposes are – that an act so terrible and seemingly flawed would bring us such perfect redemption and grace.
You have been beautiful from day 1, sweet Rebecca Claire.
I love you,