After a lifetime of leaning on my masculine abilities to power through and lead, even when I did not want to, in order to survive, I have stopped and become curious about the femininity that I so often thought impractical. I felt God whisper to me, “what if your beauty were only meant for me, would you still choose to be beautiful?” If all the world were blind and could not see the way that laughter makes your eyes twinkle and the sunlight wraps you in a heavenly glow, would you still choose beauty? If no man felt a rush of lust when he glanced your way, would beauty still be your pursuit? If no woman asked for your secret, would you still seek to be captivating?
I did not peek in high school, or anytime shortly after. I was an awkward thing throughout adolescence. Perhaps I still am, that is relative. In my 30s, I have never felt so secure, so at peace with myself, my awkwardness is my calling card that I hand out with abandon! I was raised by a practical minded mom who worked many hours, so guidance in fashion, fitness, and etiquette was not to be found (I am grateful for this, Mom). You would be more likely to find my nose buried in a book, begging the world to not look at me, than primping for some occasion. I still stumble along, but have learned some tips and tricks from benevolent girlfriends and from my time working at a salon while in college. A dear friend who gently yet persistently reminds me that my ancient and tattered black and brown Dooney & Burke is not all seasonal and does NOT go with everything, and offers her closet to me. It finally developed a hole, and has mercifully been retired. I have been surrounded by beautiful people, inside and out, willing and eager to share their gift.
But what is beauty and the purpose of it? I’ve understood the physiological purpose of attracting a mate in order to reproduce and thus preserve the species. In this, beauty serves a practical purpose. See the peacocks as they fawn their brilliant feathers, shouting to the eyes of the females, “I am the dominant, I am the partner you seek.” But what if we were not given the gift of sight, would we still pursue beauty? How do we define beauty, is it possible to define such breadth of the human experience? I would venture to define beauty as that which captures our attention and holds it in the palm of wonderment and possibility. We are at once captivated by something or someone who is beautiful. We are in awe of its beauty, and for a moment, all feels well in the world. Devastation escapes our memory, heartache is unknown to our soul; the beauty floods our senses, touching an eternal longing for all to be made right.
So we strive for beauty, a multibillion dollar industry, and in our hurried attempts to hold beauty captive, we rob it of its authenticity. We forget that we are not the creators of beauty, only the recipients and conveyors, and anything artificially produced will always be a cheap replica in a three star hotel.
I have felt a quiet in my soul these past weeks, as I contemplate beauty. It is an easy thing to do when Autumn provides golden mornings that sweep across the tree lines, rich with the hues of a beautiful decay and imminent rebirth. Tempted less to take a picture, thinking that I must imprint this masterpiece on my mind, and now working to ensure the Artist’s work designed especially for this moment and these eyes, is imprinted on my soul. Breathing in the beauty, recognizing its fleeting gift, allowing a tear of gratitude to make its way down my cheek.
Whether in nature or within ourselves, beauty quietly resides, waiting for our senses to take it in. It is the way our Maker romances us and calls us to himself, like a lover planning an elaborate date simply to see the delight spread across his love’s face. He calls to us, beckons us to sit a moment and find strength and restoration in a moment laid plainly before us that we often hurriedly pass by.
We are both the recipient and the vehicle for beauty, a gift that brings life when given without ulterior motives. What if we all sought beauty, simply for beauty’s sake, not to hold it hostage but to appreciate it in its moment, to rejoice in this complex, confusing, yet worthwhile life we live. A generous heart that spills through the cracks of a wrinkled face, a moonlit night taken in for a moment longer than before, the melody of a baby’s laughter pulling the core of our soul to a warm crescendo, the caress of a cool breeze capturing our breath with its tenderness. And we leave the beauty behind us, only to turn the corner to see and delight in another form of beauty. If you alone see the beauty, would it still be worth pursuing?
What if beauty is the dialogue of love? What if every sunrise and sunset were a sonnet from the Maker to the object of his love? And what if the beauty we create and give, is our response? This must be the most pure form of beauty, that which delights in the wonderment of sharing goodness that breathes life into the soul of its recipient. If every morsel of beauty that we cultivate is meant primarily and perhaps solely, for the glory of that which beckons us to eternity, then this is the place where we can let go with abandon and enjoy in the give and take of beauty, keeping no record of its flow, but in every moment of every day, finding delight in the give and the receipt of beauty.