Sunday, October 01, 2006

beauty does not equate godliness ... but neither does plain-ness

I'm not disagreeing with any of you who are commenting that inward beauty is of the utmost importance in comparison to outward beauty.

Proverbs 11:22 compares a physically beautiful woman who is not discrete with a pig adorned with a gold ring in his snout. No amount of makeup or beautiful clothing can mask an unattractive heart.

My roommate in college was the posterchild of the campus. Gorgeous. Before I met her I knew her name and overheard many conversations where guys were talking about her. I too was swept away by her beauty and smile. But when we had lived together for a couple of months, that outer beauty was quickly transformed when her true heart was displayed. I was repulsed by her selfishness and her pride and her disregard for others. Her physical appearance was actually transformed by her heart's motivations.

I love being feminine. I love wearing skirts and dresses. I love experimenting with different ways of doing my hair. But should my heart not be right with God all of that is for nothing. Pure vanity!

So, you see? I agree with you.

However, as with many of my other posts that have sparked disagreement, I only brought up one side of the issue. Women are so often exhorted in the church to enhance their inner beauty. Do you really need another parrot to tell you the same? Sometimes I think the intensity with which this message is preached is rather reactionary to such issues as anorexia/bolemia, obesity, immodest dress and appearance, causing opinions to be swayed to the other extreme with equating plain/bland appearance with godliness.

Isn't that the same?

Both are trying to draw attention to themselves by their outward appearance one with enhancing it, the other by disregarding it. 2 extremes. Similar motives.

I am merely attempting to bring up a little discussed issue and commenting that indeed the condition of the heart and one's character is of primary importance, but that doesn't negate one's taking pleasure in creating/enhancing physical beauty.

God is the author of beauty in so many different forms, both physical and spiritual. He himself is beautiful. Artists, made in the image of God, get a thrill from copying the Master Artist or from creating their own beauty. A tree in the middle of a meadow is beautiful, especially as the mist of the evening rolls in. Would you tisk-tisk if someone came along to enhance that beauty by hanging a multitude of candle-lit lanterns from it's branches? "Shameful. God created that tree beautiful just how it is. Shame on you for attempting to add to it."

No, that's silly.

Beauty is good. Like Seumas commented on Dani's blog, the goodness of beauty does not make it moral.

Some churches decide against adorning their building in guilded sculpture and choose instead to maintain a humble appearance. Is the stainglass church better than the other because it is "more" beautiful? That's obsurd. But if that "plain" building houses a group of people who are spiritually dead and full of pride and hypocrisy, it is not better than a sepulchre. However, as one enters a cathedral and the regal pillars and arches draws one's eyes upward to the sparkling, coloured glass, one might find himself giving glory to God the Author of all things beautiful. The congregation may be as spiritually dead as the other, but that doesn't keep one from praising God. That beautiful woman walking down the street may be an atheist, however, one can still appreciate her beauty.

I desire to bless Michael with my appearance (sigh ... and just to be sure i'm not misunderstood ... AND a kind, gentle spirit). The other evening I dressed up, put on a strand of pearls, straightened my hair, and put on a bit of make-up. His appreciation could not be masked. And I took delight in having pleased the man I love in this way. (And for your information we also read Scripture together and prayed).

I feel odd having to justify myself in this ... or tacking on further explanation. human responsibility ... BUT also sovereignty of God. wife respecting ... BUT also husband loving. outer beauty ... BUT also inward beauty. make-up ... BUT also prayer.

I have a feeling Craig's going to tell me that I don't have to always justify myself on my blog. I suppose I need to remember that few of you actually even know me, so I'm scrambling here to be sure you know that I understand the value in a beautiful spirit. But honestly I'm a bit afraid I'm going to get a comment like, "What? You like wearing dresses?!! Are you saying trousers can't be feminine?!"

(cringe)

22 comments:

GloryandGrace said...

I just noticed that you posted a new entry so I'll post my comment from this morning on this entry as well :)

"Sometimes I think the intensity with which this message is preached is rather reactionary to such issues as anorexia/bolemia, obesity, immodest dress and appearance, causing opinions to be swayed to the other extreme with equating plain/bland appearance with godliness. Isn't that the same? Both are trying to draw attention to themselves by their outward appearance one with enhancing it, the other by disregarding it. 2 extremes. Similar motives."

This is the very reason I was compelled to write a recent blog entry:

http://gloriousgrace.blogspot.com/2006/09/from-modesty-to-vanity.html

bethy31 said...

Are you at the Desiring God conference? I'm trying to hook-up with you and Sajini to no avail - call me if you're here and we'll hook up for dinner..

Chris said...

Bravo both for your sentiments and the manner in which you communicated them. It is this essential concept which I have been mulling about in my head for quite some time, and simply haven't had the wisdom to know how to say - likely because I'm a guy, and there's simply no effective way (at least that I've found) to point this out. So often our church culture rejects certain kinds of beauty (it can be argued that much of the history of the twentieth century church was a rejection of high forms of art, for example... which might explain the current downward spiral of much of it) instead of realizing that all beauty is from God and ought to be valued.

Thanks for this post; it was a blessing.

Dani said...

Thanks for your post Christine.

I want to say that it certainly has not been my intention to cause you frustration as I have interacted with your thoughts on this issue. I'm trying to work it all out in my own head as well, and for me the best way to do that is to dialogue with others on the sure foundation of Scripture. So I am sorry if you have been frustrated by my ongoing interaction with you on this.

However, whilst you think I have misrepresented your view or misunderstood you opinion, I can't help but think that the reverse is also true. For example I have not said-
- that women should not wear makeup (on the contrary I said I often wore some)
- that it is wrong for women to want to look attractive or feminine (I love wearing skirts and am looking forward to our college ball at the end of the week)
- that you don't value inner beauty
- that beauty should not be appreciated as a blessing of God (in fact my post on my own blog clearly said I think it is right to appreciate beauty)

None of this has been used in my discussion here - and if any of my words gave anyone that impression then I apologise for not writing as articulately as I should have.

My concern has been, rather, on two things which you (and others) have affirmed in this discussion.
- Firstly that in making yourself appear more physically attractive (not in comparison to a slob as per my last comment) people will have a higher opinion of you which then gives them a better impression of your boyfriend
- Secondly that making ourselves more physically attractive on the outside reveals more about our inner beauty.

I've only spoken to these concerns because I don't understand what their Scriptural foundation is. It may very well be that there is one- which is why I wanted to discuss it and encourage you to help me understand these two propositions (above) better. But instead you (and probably most others commenting on here) think I am somehow rebuking you for wanting to put on pearls, wear a bit of makeup and look feminine. I'm not.

ckhnat said...

sorry dani,

looking back i can tell that i was being a bit reactionary, responding to things you never said.

CraigS said...

Hey Christine, it's totally cool to want to look nice for your guy. You don't need to justify it...

ckhnat said...

Indeed, Chris, I would hope that Christians would be the highest supporter of the high arts both in production, participation, and support. But instead, Christians of the 20th Cent. have shyed away from the arts and culture. Perhaps originally it was due to economic reasons but then due to no or little Christian presence in the arts, the world slipped in and took control. Christians coiled back, repulsed by what they saw and condemned art as evil. In their own attempts at the different genres, they were content with mediocrity producing what i like to call "Jesus Junk" or cookie cutter arts and crafts or oil paintings mass produced to be put on coffee cups and mouse pads.

The God we worship created beauty. Should we not do the same?

Dani said...

Thanks Christine :) I appreciate that.

Craig- I wasn't asking her to justify her looking nice for her guy.

CraigS said...

Dani - I never said you were

Chris said...

"...due to no or little Christian presence in the arts, the world slipped in and took control. Christians coiled back, repulsed by what they saw and condemned art as evil. In their own attempts at the different genres, they were content with mediocrity producing what i like to call "Jesus Junk" or cookie cutter arts and crafts or oil paintings mass produced to be put on coffee cups and mouse pads."

So true! It's happened in painting, in dance (if a church even allows dance), in sculpture and architecture, and especially in music. I can't tell you how horrified I am by most of the music that comes off the Christian labels and into our church - and then people want to play it during worship services! I heard once that there's a program somewhere that automatically generates hillsong worship songs for you using a number of catch phrases; i.e. the "Jesus my Boyfriend" song. DaVinci's Notebook (an a capella group) does a fantastic piece of their own: "Title of the Song" which is a format piece for a boy band. It's remarkable how similar the two are.

ckhnat said...

Celebrating Biblical Womanhoood:
Philosophies of Beauty in Conflict
by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

THIS is what I was trying to say.

ckhnat said...

scroll down to page 40 if you want to read the article linked above

Donna said...

Makes me think of a recent conversation I had with someone... or something I read... can't remember where or who... maybe it was on your blog...

ANYWAY, the gist is that an individual had worked with of a group of indiginous people, seeking to lead them to Christ and disciple them. The people group had known another missionary couple, and when they came to visit they noticed the blandness of their home, the lack of color and creativity. It actually was a turnoff for the people group, since they equated Christianity with blandness. I believe the new missionary helped the people see quite the opposite.

It's not exactly what we're talking about here, but I think it's relevent in a roundabout way.

Beth - my husband and his friend are kickin' it at the Desiring God conference this weekend... you may bump into him!

Joanna said...

interesting discussion!

Where I really start to get confused and a little peeved is how we define our outward beauty too. Does wearing a skirt actually make me feminine? Longer hair? a necklace? It's not that I object to Christian women being beautiful, but we do some strange things. Like removing our body hair so that we look like pre-pubescent girls for example...

any thoughts on the how of beauty?

itreeye said...

I hope it is okay to ramble a bit from feeling inspired to explore after reading this and some comments.

Okay beauty is the alluring factor that motivates the very me, or my sense of identity to impress or be valued by myself. Really I want to be objectively seen as special, correctly patterned, substantive in a living poem, somehow representing 'me'. I want to BE loved.

So, beauty than is utilitarian. It is a tool for some great ambition of relationship.
Real Love than, is beyond beauty, since 'ugly' or anything other than 'beauty' has acheived real love.

If God really loves me, than if if right, I can fully accept the 'ugly' now, or as if from an ultimately objective perspective of eternity, and be thankful, appreciative and full of pure joy that I was with or seeing this ugliness, and not something I as yet still believed of as beautiful. How can this be? This thought seems to me to be impossible, yet also I know that it is truth, it is Grace.

ckhnat said...

I'd rather laugh than cry: where does body hair come in?

bethy31 said...

I guess I got totally ignored - so odd

Katie said...

Christine, I had to just laugh at the last comment about trousers and skirts, because sometimes it just feels like we're all fighting a battle to make sure we give the "right" answer that makes everyone happy. As a former non-make-up wearer who now takes a whopping 5 minutes to throw on some mascara so people don't think I'm dying (hey blonde eyelashes somehow insinuate forthcoming death or extreme sickness) I say wear your make-up, don't wear it, and if you feel like it paint your face up like a clown. You hit the nail when you said it's what's behind the make-up that counts and yet the existance of make-up doesn't negate what's in the heart nor does it cover it(at least that's what I took from what you said). Sometimes I wonder in the rush to exhort inner-beauty if we spend too much time pooh-poohing outer beauty. Who says that both can't be present and worthwhile.

Nixter said...

I agree with Dani, I don't think anyone in any of these comments has said that wearing make-up, dressing up and looking beautiful is wrong - I think all these things are well and good. Just wanted to claify.

I also like this verse:

But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

Priscilla said...

Sounds to me like you all basically agree with one another.

Bethy31, I feel for you!

ckhnat said...

i think that Bethy is referring to the DG conference this weekend that i said i was going to go to but didn't. Eep! I'm so sorry we didn't get a chance to meet up. I feel horrible.

bethy31 said...

Don't feel horrible - I was just really worried about you two - didn't hear a word about not going...still haven't heard from Sajini, hoping she's ok, too..