Beauty. Perfection. They mean the same thing, right?
This is the thought that I was pondering to myself this morning. The thing about being alone with one’s self is that you get to be with you. Every delightful trait and maddeningly frustrating trait is yours to behold.
This morning during the initial part of my quiet time I was beating myself up. I am not the person that I would like to be. I have recently been struggling with this question, “are the decisions I am making each day moving me in a direction where I can become the person that I want to be?”
My knee jerk reaction has been absolutely not. I argue in my own head, like a great litigation attorney, that the evidence of my life over the past several years would indicate that I am so far off the path that the best GPS in the world could not locate me. Clearly I am so broken, so lost and so far from perfect. If I am not perfect, then I am not beautiful. Which would logically mean that I am the opposite of beautiful – absolutely, hideously, ugly.
Yucky, mucky, yuck. That did not seem like a very nice, pleasant, or even true thought.
I spent the second half of my quiet time evaluating these thoughts. Clearly there is no way, no argument to make in my life that I am perfect. At my absolute best I am still a mess. Then it dawned on me that I was interchanging beauty and perfection. I was making an assumption that beauty must be a state of perfection. But is that true?
Webster.com dictates that perfection is the “state or condition of being perfect” or “something that can not be improved.” Well, given the amount of improvement I could use, it is now absolutely certain that I am not perfect.
One of the Webster.com definitions for beauty is “the quality or aggregate qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”
No where in that definition, or any definition on Webster.com was the word perfect used to describe beauty. In fact, perfect was not listed as a synonym for beauty. It was, however, listed near the middle of the paragraph of related words.
Yet, in my mind there is a direct neural pathway connecting perfection and beauty like an interstate overpass. I wonder how much thought traffic has passed over this bridge in my mind over the years of my life.
It’s high time I closed this mental bridge down, put up barriers to stop traffic and brought a wrecking ball to it.
That is the word that boldly stuck out to me in Webster’s definition of beauty. The quality or qualities IN a person. Take that IN for a moment.
This is the verse that came to my mind as I was contemplating beauty coming from within.
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)
In the definition, it says that beauty gives pleasure or exalts. To me that means that beauty would contain something of great worth. These verses out of 1 Peter say that a gentle, quiet spirit and your inner self is of great worth to God.
Worth & Time
When I think of great worth, how to achieve great worth, it happens over time, generally a long period of time. Things like real estate appreciating in value, art transitioning from modern to classic, a child developing into an adult – all take large periods of time to come to great worth.
Perhaps an inner self of great worth is one that is under development over a long period of time as well. Maybe that is why it says in 2 Peter 1:5-8,
"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
That is one big list of things to add to and develop. A weighty list that heavily burdens my heart when I recognize how short I fall right now. But, one that would become more reasonable over a long period of time…a lifetime even.
I love how this verse reiterates the idea of great worth. It’s kind of hidden. The passage says that a well developed inner self will “keep you from being ineffective and unproductive”. If you turn the way we look at the wording, a developed inner self will help you to be effective and productive; of great worth.
“If you possess these qualities in increasing measure…” Increasing, being built up over time. Isn’t it interesting that it does not say, full measure, completed measure or perfect measure? There is great freedom and release in that statement.
In early 2011 I wrote down a list of dreams for myself and my life. I carry it on a tattered and worn piece of paper in my Bible. One of my dreams I documented was this: to have true beauty that comes from a depth of soul that can only be attained through living many years well.
I hope you are giggling with me right now. Count me a little slow that it is over five years later and I am still making a connection that beauty comes from within and is grown over a long period of time. Thank God for His patience with this work in progress.
My dear readers, this idea of growing beauty over time is so contrary to the world’s view and perhaps contrary to our own thoughts (if you are anything like me). It seems that the message of the world is that beauty is lost over time, that it diminishes. But everything that I am seeing today, would say that beauty does grow over time.
No Perfection Required
No perfection is required to attain beauty. Dare I say that even GREAT BEAUTY can be attained without perfect.
It is not the size, style or cut of your clothes. It is not the length or color of your hair. It is not about the carat weight or brand of the accessories you are adorned with. It is your disposition, your character and your nature that make you beautiful. It is those qualities that gives pleasure and it is those things that God can delight in.
May we be encouraged that we do not have to have achieved this all today, or even have achieved it all five years ago. We have time, time to add to and develop a great worth and a great beauty.
My dear reader, there is a painful point to a lack of perfection. It is a honest statement that I think, if we can walk in it, can be more freeing that punishing. We can be beautiful without being perfect. That means that we are not perfect.
A lack of perfection is going to mean that there are going to continue to be points where we speak quickly to say something hurtful, opportunities that we pass by that we should stop to take up, times we will give up when we should persevere, and choices we will make out of fleshly desire instead of a self controlled spirit.
These times could sting a little or hurt a lot, maybe even leave scars for the rest of our lives. Just because they happen, does not immediately make us hideously ugly. It is a fact of being not perfect. These are the times where we need to have a quiet moment with God to hear Him say:
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
We have beautiful imperfections because we were made in the power of a perfect God to reflect His beautiful image.
Thank You for not demanding perfection from us. Thank You for being perfect to fill in all of the areas where we fall short. Lord, please help us to tear down the connection in our minds between beauty and perfection. Help us to build a new bridge to Your truth that tells us about a beauty of great worth acquired over time; a beauty that does not fade but that can be added to.
Lord, please help us all to draw near to You in our weakness. In those times where our imperfections cause pain to us or to others. Help us to know that even in those times You can help us to add to our character, our nature and our disposition those qualities which can increase our beauty.
Lord, for my precious readers (each and every one of them) please help them to see the beauty that You have placed within them. Reveal to them the ways that they reflect Your image. Give them an emboldened confidence to shine for Your delight, for there is no greater beauty than that.
In the name of Jesus, both perfect and beautiful, amen.