12 March 2014

beauty and bodies and girls

My friend Andrea is working on preparing to give talks on beauty to teen girls. This is such a hot, in-your-face-whether-you-want-it-or-not-hi-I-am-a-billboard yet rarely-spoken-of topic. We need some truth and clear perspective in these areas. What do you wish you heard growing up?

So here’s what I wish–that someone would’ve said how awesome it is to be beautiful, how God has made us all with our very own beauty, how it reflects him when we steward that well. I needed to hear that beauty is incredibly powerful and we can either use it and/or hide it out of fear, shame, selfishness OR that we can enjoy it and cover it from a place of faith, hope and love.

I had this sense that beauty was powerful, but grew up thinking it was bad to attract attention for physical beauty, that the heart was the only thing that mattered. The heart is certainly the core, but from my observation a pure and beautiful heart will always spill out into how we care for ourselves (which includes our bodies!) and those around us. And this is undeniably attractive–on every level. Now I see that as we age, physical bodies begin to reflect more and more the realities of the heart and even at death, you can often see beautiful hearts glowing through decrepit bodies giving them an unutterable, encompassing beauty.

I think it takes a lot of courage for a parent to tell a daughter how awesome her body is and how valuable and good a full and nurtured beauty is. There is so much power in a young female body and we have all been pummeled and hounded by the experience of watching that mis-stewarded and mis-treated in subtle and horrific and culturally acceptable, but devastating ways. Girls are told so many lies about their bodies (and very selves), but then we read Scripture and see how happy God is about our bodies (and selves) and how on purpose and thoughtful he is about all of the pieces–our relational needs, our physical needs, our sexuality, our vulnerability, our power.

Modesty is beautiful, but modesty is always a covering out of honor, not covering out of shame.

I love how many beautiful women are in the Bible. References off the top of my head–women in Genesis, Esther and Ruth, the woman in Song of Songs, 1 Pet 3:5. Then there are things about us, how carefully God crafts and sees us–Genesis 1 & 5, Psalm 139, Lk 12:7. Thoughts about God and beauty–his lavish work in creation, his care for the physical beauty of the temple (and how does this apply to his church now?), Ps 19, descriptions of the overwhelming beauty of God in prophets and Revelation. He is clearly concerned about beauty. His is an all-consuming, ferocious beauty.

So, this will probably continue percolating in my soul for the rest of my days, only felt increasingly deeply as I love daughters and nieces and girls growing up today. I invite reflections and thoughts, especially from my friends with daughters. What do you wish that you had heard? What true and good things about beauty have you learned from God, from experience?

What do you want to make sure is spoken to the girls that you love?


Selvi said...

This is a great topic. It is pretty difficult to have a healthy view of this as a woman growing up now. I think that besides trying to help girls cultivate that healthy view, we also need to discuss with them how men are affected by the culture and what impact that can have on their interactions with men, romantic and otherwise.

sashwee said...

I posted a comment about your topic, but I'm not sure I did it right. Did you get it?

On another note, I saw Elements of Style in your sidebar. I've enjoyed dipping into it very much, but here is an interesting critique: http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497