Monday, February 16, 2015

When Beauty Needs Redefined

Can I ask you an honest question? 

What do you think beauty looks like? Give me your first unedited thoughts? 

All around us are images of what is perceived to be beauty. 

If you are like me and aren't sure what that looks like, we can just Google the word, “beauty.” 

When I did that, images of airbrushed women appeared. My search also revealed, page after page of products that promised to deliver beauty through weight loss, flawless skin and how to be better photographed, all to appear more beautiful. 
If you want to write a book that will sell, just write one about how to be more beautiful. Make sure you have a retouched photo on the cover to prove that the inside is going to deliver beauty on the outside.   

There are things that I've learned, from living over half a century now.  

One of those things –beauty is misunderstood.

I love the Webster 1828 Dictionary. I have the thick printed version which goes into detail of origins and root words, but I appreciate that there is a simplified version on-line here as well. 

There you can read that beauty, “is an assemblage of graces.”

That is just so interesting to me. 

The first thoughts of beauty are most often focused on the external, but the root meaning of the word shines the light on the internal. 

Let that definition soak into the very pores of your soul and pulse through your beating heart.

Beauty is an assemblage of graces.

And the word, assemblage is a fun word. 

It is actually listed here, as one of the top 100 most beautiful words in the English language. It simply means, “a gathering.”

So beauty, is an assemblage, or a gathering of graces. 

Graces carries with it a sense of virtue. Something that comes from the deepest parts of who we are. So I stopped to think of who some of the most beautiful people I know are. 

The first beauty that came to mind is my friend Esther, whose husband left her alone to raise three children. Even after decades of living in this area she speaks with a hint of New Jersey accent. She always touches my arm and asks how the family is and reminds me how she prays for us often. Esther is nothing less than stunning in her royal blue coat and her crown of wavy silver hair. Her beauty is timeless and cannot be altered by the hard years. Her face? It's full of light. 

It wouldn't seem like a man could look like beauty, but I believe I know men that are. One of them is Milt. It would be easy to pass by him I suppose. He is a widower and it's getting harder for him to get around. He was married to a tall, true beauty of a woman. They worked hard, raised some children and then one day his wife began to show signs of Alzheimer's.  

He cared for her with deep tenderness for a long period of time, but finally had to take her to a place that could provide the care she needed. Milt went to visit his bride most every day, and often he went twice a day. She didn't even know who he was, but still he was faithful. It was a difficult, long journey, but he loved his wife, until she drew her last breath. Milt lived out beauty that is rare. That’s what I see when he is sitting in his chair passing out bulletins on Sunday.  I am crazy over the beauty of his soul. 

It makes me cry, when I read and see the beauty of Kara Tippetts. Her story has become a testimony of faith to the world, as she and her husband cling to the promises, that this earth is not their final home. Cancer is quickly taking over her body, but not her soul. Even in the most graphic pictures that reflect the battle of cancer and chemo, she is honestly full of light and beauty. Her words are so entirely rich you need a glass of something, to wash them down. I'll just warn you, grab a box of tissues and be amazed. Her life is blinding with beauty that cannot be produced by a self-help book.

The Word says in Isaiah, that the Lord will give us beauty for ashes. 

Seem like such an odd thing. 


Heaps of burned flakes, which represent the hard and ugly things of life. The things that makes us weep and mourn and draw near to God because there is nowhere left to turn.

God calls that beautiful.

God, is an upside-down God to our way of thinking and is in the business of making things that are not if they are.

Those that I see living beauty out, somehow aren't focused on what seems to be dark fact or painful reality. 

Beauty is when we live lives of intrinsic virtue and integrity. 

When the deepest parts of who we are show the world what God really looks like. Those who respond in love to the darkness that may surround them –that is beauty.

God unfolds a far better story than we could write, but we have to live with love in the dark places that make no senseSomehow it is in the quiet suffering, we contend with the loud ugliness in the world around us. 

I think that is how we live and gather graces. 

Gathering, by acts of love, everything that is contrary to what the world teaches.

It’s an inner disposition. 

After all we could be the most attractive person on the outside, but if we have a temperament of hate and selfishness, –beauty doesn't reside there.

The world sells outward beauty as something that will satisfy and last. The Bible says that outward beauty will fade.

Beauty is result of what is embedded in a person’s character. This is why God Himself is the pinnacle of beauty. 

Beauty is the deepest part of who He is and therefore of who we are. For each and every person is made in the image of God and has deep, eternal value in His eyes. 

This is my own quiet rebellion against the world’s standard of beauty. As people who love Jesus we have to stop buying into the worlds illusion of beauty and start living the true definition of beauty. 

Start gathering graces of beauty. 

Begin today making one decision to shine light into a dark world by standing for what is good, noble and true. That is called “virtue.” 

Can you stand one more little word study? The word virtue is nearly a lost word in our language. In its original meaning, virtue is said to be this: “The radical sense is strength, from straining, stretching, extending.”

Living out a life of virtue isn't easy. It involves a straining, stretching and extending. It is in that struggle that we develop strength and true beauty exists.

Those people that I shared about earlier? The ones in who I see deep beauty? Somehow the Lord is bringing beauty out of their ashes.  It won’t grace the cover of a magazine, but God is writing a more beautiful story. 

True beauty has an eternal quality that does not fade. Ever.

The big question that I have for us is this: “How do we define beauty?”

One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD 
Psalm 27:4


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© Rhonda Quaney