Thursday, February 5, 2009

Made in God's Image, as a Female: Beauty

The Bible tells us that humans were made in the image of God Himself. Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

Male and Female. Both were made in God's image, but not in the same way. One was made a male and the other a female. We were not made in the image of God physically, since God is a spirit. So we can conclude we were made in His image inside of us. There are many characteristics of God that both man and woman share, but there are some that are distinctively given to each particular gender to show forth an aspect of God's image through that gender.

So, as a woman, how do you reveal God's nature to the world? If you are a man reading this, how does your wife, daughter, sister, girlfriend, etc. display the image of her Maker to those around her? I learned so much through reading "Captivating" by John and Stasi Eldredge. I will be quoting from them much in this post. As they wrote in their book, "What did God mean when He created woman in His image? God wanted to reveal something about Himself, so he gave us Eve. What can we learn from her?"

I will begin with the words written by my husband many years ago in a letter to me, because, as you will see, they so perfectly illustrate the first three ways women bear the image of God in their femininity.

"Some may say there's not much in a name, but I say there is much in the name of the one I love. She, Esther Ruth, is a "star" in my life. Out of her shines what I call true beauty; a beauty that this fallen world knows not much of. Just like the distant stars of the sky, there is a mystery about her. This mystery beckons me to stare long and hard at who she really is. Where does she come from? What's going on in the midst of her?"

My husband mentioned how he found in me beauty and mystery and how those characteristics "beckoned" him to stare long and hard! So these will be the first three characteristics I shall speak of.

1) More than anything else in creation, a woman reveals God's beauty to the world. She was God's most detailed creation, and her body alone is God's most beautiful work of art. John mentioned in his book how he and his wife realized that most of the paintings they saw in museums showing the naked form were ones of women. They did not see a single painting of a nude man, though some do exist. God made a man strong, and a woman beautiful. Her form, her face, her eyes...they all reveal the beauty of God.

Women are born wanting to be beautiful. Little girls like to dress up as princesses and brides and the like, to brush each others hair, and dance around the house. They want to capture attention, especially that of their daddies. They are asking, either aloud or just inside, "Do you think I'm beautiful?" Why? Because it is part of who they are to ask such a question; instinctively, they know that one of their purposes in life is to reveal the beauty of God.

The Eldredges told a story of a little girl who went from office to office, singing for everyone, fully expecting to be delighted in: "A little girl in her glory, unashamed in her desire to delight, and be delighted in." They shared another story of a six year old girl who told her mother about the most wonderful dream she had ever had. She was a queen, in a beautiful dress and with a crown upon her head. Her mother asked her why it was such a wonderful dream and the daughter answered, "I just love feeling that way!" When asked what way, she spoke one word as her answer: "Beauty."

Of course, outward beauty does not hold substance. Women can show the beauty of God most through their inner loveliness. In 1 Peter, God exhorts women to not be merely beautiful on the outside, but that they should cultivate inner beauty, which is very precious to Him. Women want to have this inner beauty, the kind that a good man is drawn to and that their girlfriends appreciate.

"Every woman wants to have a beauty to unveil. Not to conjure, but to unveil. Most women feel the pressure to be beautiful from very young, but that is not what I speak of. There is also a deep desire to simply and truly be the beauty and be delighted in." (John Eldredge)

"What a man is usually drawn to in a woman is two steps past her physical appearance. While he may lack the words to express this, intuitively he knows he has stumbled on someone who can glimpse his heart, who seems to know him in ways he has always longed to be known. A man has a hunger that can only be touched by the innate kind of beauty you possess." (Paula Rinehart in her book Sex and the Soul of a Woman).

I know that one of my greatest desires is to be delighted in, to be enjoyed and desired. From God and from my husband, and all others whom I touch. It is inner beauty that is delighted in. What does this inner beauty look like? A "gentle" and "quiet" spirit, according to God's word. That simply means a spirit at rest, quieted by God's love and walking in a peaceful way. Not striving. "The only thing getting in the way of our being fully captivating and enjoyed is our striving." (Eldredge)

"A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest, trusting God because she has come to know Him to be worthy of her trust. She exudes a sense of calm, a sense of rest...she speaks comfort...she assures others all is well and all will be well...she offers others grace to be and the room to a release...we can breathe...A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy or enough. She knows in her quiet center where God dwells that he finds her beautiful."

"Every once in a while, a woman walks into a room and you know that she knows that God calls her beautiful. There is peace and strength and energy that come from belonging to Him. There is confidence that is captivating." (Angela Hunt in her book "Do You Think I'm Beautiful?")

What is so important about beauty? Do we need it? Does the world need beauty? Yes, for beauty speaks to us that all is well, it comforts and inspires us, and it nourishes us: "It is the kind of food our souls crave. A woman's breast is among the loveliest of all God's works, and it is with her breast that she nourishes a baby- a stunning picture of the way in which beauty itself nourishes us."

"Beauty is transcendent- it is our most immediate experience of the eternal...sometimes the beauty is so deep it pierces us with longing...for life as it was meant to be. Beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known, but somehow know our hearts were created for. Beauty speaks of heaven to come, when all shall be beautiful. It haunts us with eternity. Beauty says, there is a glory calling to you. And if there is a glory, there is a source of glory. What great goodness could have possibly created this? What generosity gave us this to behold? Beauty draws us to God."

"Beauty is the essence of a woman. We want to be perfectly clear that we mean both physical beauty and a soulful/spiritual beauty...the world cheapens and prostitutes beauty, making it all about a perfect figure few women can attain, but christians minimize it too, or overspiritualize it, making it all about "character"...God gave Eve a beautiful form and a beautiful spirit. She expresses beauty in both."

"I sit outside on a summer evening and just listen and behold and drink it all in, and my heart begins to quiet and peace begins to come into my soul...This is what it's like to be with a woman at rest, a woman comfortable in her feminine beauty. She is enjoyable to be with. She is lovely...You relax and believe once again that all will be well."

I recently found an amazing poem which partly read as such: "The face is like that of an angel...The skin of the creation is like dove's silk. The scent of the hair is sweeter than rose petals. The touch is gentle and comforting. This creation is woman... Her warm embrace is like a soft blanket. Her smile fills my heart with joy...Her beauty is inside and out; yes, this is true, but I speak not of her beauty alone. For her beauty proclaims God's glory...even if she said not a word, who she is would show God's glory and beauty."

C.S. Lewis once wrote: "The beauty of the female is the root of joy to the female as well as to the desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve, and to both it is in the lover that the beloved tastes her own delightfulness." Yes, that is a deep quote. Read it again. There is an important truth in it.

"The reason a woman wants a beauty to unveil, the reason she asks, Do you delight in me? is simply because God does as well. God is captivating beauty."

To desire the enjoying of her own beauty is the obedience of Eve. Wow, that is powerful insight.

Women are just obeying (instictively) their nature as females when they want to be beautiful, desired, enjoyed and delighted in. As Angela Thomas wrote, "The longing to be known as beautiful is a part of our design as women. God put us together this way on purpose. We are wired to long for beauty and to be known as beautiful." God wants all the same things, so He has put those characterisitcs of Himself in woman to reveal His own beauty and His desire for us to enjoy that beauty!

**Now, for a side note. God desires to use fathers and husbands and friends to affirm a woman's beauty...but none can answer this question that is attached to a woman's soul- Do You Think I'm Beautiful?- the way only God can.

"If the question "Do you think I'm beautiful?" came attached to my soul, then maybe the answer wasn't ever meant to fully come from this world. Maybe the purpose of the question is to take me by the hand and walk me into the presence of the Creator."

"The questions are rightfully mine, but the answers that truly fill and give stregnth will come only from God. It is so okay for my soul and yours to scream, "Do you think I'm beautiful?" And there is a transformation happening in my life as I listen to God tell me, resoundingly, "Yes"...If I knew that God called me beautiful, I could pursue my passions and live and love with abandon...the desparate search would be over. I would be noticed. Desired. Known." (Angela Thomas)

Do you now see how females were born with this longing to be beautiful? Do you understand why they have such a longing? Do you comprehend what the longing speaks to us of God? About His beauty? And about His desire for us to notice, enjoy and delight in His beauty?

These longings a woman has are not wrong. They were put there by the God who made them. They are, in fact, one of the ways women bear the image of God as females.

In my next post, I will write about the next way women reveal God's image...and it was also illustrated in my husband's letter to me.



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