“We are all living to be beautiful and it is crushing us.” JAmmons
Here in Italy, I live in a culture obsessed with beauty. I often greet girls “Ciao Bella” (hello beautiful) or even from time to time, greet the guys “Ciao bello.” Bella is used to describe just about everything, from a day to a meal to a time with friends. And yes, Italian fashion is much more beautiful that the States. I don’t know if I have every rocked a sweatshirt here in public, as least not when I am on campus.
This obsession with beauty isn’t completely a bad thing. They appreciate aesthetics, appreciate and value the ability to create something valuable, and in this way I can often appreciate what God has created even more. But as Jeff said, “it is crushing us.” What we become obsessed with controls our life and when we base our worth on whether or not we are beautiful, it has the same potential to control and devalue us.
Because it isn’t true beauty that we are measuring. It is a synthetic beauty, a beauty that is superficial and fades with time. Whether that is the emaciated “beauty” of fashion models, the rugged good looks of the latest Hollywood star, or even the beauty of a priceless work of art. The model will gain weight and wrinkles, the actor eventually will lose his muscular physique, and the work of art, unless carefully maintained, will deteriorate.
Though I think people are quick to say we do, we rarely appreciate the beauty of the woman who has lived and loved for 95 years, like my Grandma. Or the beauty of wrinkles permanently ironed on the face of a woman because her smile has brought love to hundreds (Jane A). Or the emaciated beauty of a man who has worn himself down serving his people, like Ghandi. We may admire these people, envy their accomplishments, but rarely do we call it beautiful. Or the patched up quilt, broken down building, worn out pews, or beat up Bible, all that tell more stories that a shiny new car.
But that is just beauty around us. Aesthetic beauty. Even the pursuit of that, though not inherently wrong or bad, will leave us feeling empty. Bethany Dillon penned a song that says “I want to be beautiful, to make you stand in awe, look inside my heart and be amazed. I want to hear you say who I am is quite enough, just want to be worthy of love and beautiful.” While I think that this song was written focused on women, I think even guys, at the core, want to be “worthy of love.” We want to be worth it and the way that too often we seek to be worthy is to be beautiful. Or to have great accomplishments. Or to stand out about the rest.
The tragic, sad, beautiful thing is that we are not enough in ourselves. But we are worthy of love. We are because He said we are. Because you are God’s creation, you are worthy of love. At the end of the song, she says “You make me beautiful, you make me stand in awe, you step inside my heart and I am amazed. I love to hear you say who I am is quite enough, you make me worthy of love and beautiful.” I think there is a telling difference, a shift of focus, from me to you.
In this culture of beauty, I want to share this message with others here. That they are worthy of love simply because He, the Creator of the Universe, has loved them. And because He offered His Son to make a relationship with Him possible. And when we realize this, it enables us to truly love others. “We love because He first loved us.” When we realize this truth, the chains fall off. We can live in freedom. We can live in His beauty.