He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
People my age do not ordinarily go around thinking about what makes others beautiful or handsome. They certainly don’t obsess about it for themselves.
I must be the exception (about people in general, not myself!).
The reason the subject hangs around me is that I’m always sketching people. They sit before me, and I ask them to smile and look me in the eye. “How long do I have to hold the smile?” they will invariably ask. “One minute.” Anyone can do that.
I quickly study their facial features, the shape of their eyes, the location and direction and fullness of their eyebrows, and all the other details. I try to whip it out in a minute to 90 seconds, then go on to the next person.
Okay, it may not be great art, but I am often surprised at how close the likeness is.
At conventions and large events, I’ll sometimes sit for hour after hour, drawing nonstop. They’ll have me a table off to one side and provide a volunteer to herd people this way. I bring all the paper and pens. (In answer to your question, yes, they often pay me nicely. But in many cases I volunteer my services.)
Last Friday night, I sketched for hours at a retirement dinner. Thursday, I sketched all the attendees at a women’s luncheon where I was the speaker. And Saturday, I’ll sketch for four hours at a local church’s fall festival. In all, in these three events, I’ll have probably drawn 500 people.
In sketching large groups of people, the insecurities and personal inadequacies people feel about their appearance will usually bubble to the surface rather quickly. “I don’t like my smile.” “Can you make me pretty?” “Can you take off about 10 pounds?” “Make me younger.” “Can you fix my nose?” “Let me take my glasses off; I look better without them.”
“Just draw one of my chins,” a lady in Georgia said.
For many years, I’ve done programs for high school and middle schools. They’ll set up my easel in the gym, I’ll sketch the principal, a few teachers, and as many students as time allows, then go into my 12-minute talk on “lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.” The lessons vary, depending on the situation, but usually include 1) there is a beauty about every person, 2) it’s different in every person (so quit comparing yourself), 3) everyone looks better smiling, 4) you can choose to smile without prompting, and 5) everyone would change something about themselves if they could.
Lately, I’ve realized that almost everything I’ve learned on the subject of handsome/beautiful can be boiled down to this: As we mature and grow, eventually we decide that handsome/beautiful comes in an infinite variety. This may be the greatest compliment to the Creator imaginable.
There are lovely young people, beautiful old people, gorgeous skinny people, and attractive fat people. Different colors, races, heights, features, etc., etc., “they are (not only) precious in His sight,” as the children’s song goes, but beautiful too.
When we were young and immature, we thought of handsome/beauty in narrow, rigid ways. A person had to have perfect features, balanced face, good skin, great hair, pretty eyes.
Very few people measured up.
In time, as you matured and wised up, you learned something. People did not need to look like your small, rigid formula to be great looking. There are all kinds of beautiful people. Many handsome men have a flaw here or there but are still winners. Many beautiful women may have a few features that would not ordinarily meet anyone’s definition of beautiful, but as a total package–not taken apart, one feature at a time–as a complete unit, they are gorgeous. It’s the total package, not the individual characteristics.
Young people are notorious for isolating one facial feature they do not like and thus calling themselves ugly. So, in the school setting, I remind them that no one looks at us as a nose or a chin, but as a total package, a complete unit.
We don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful. And how liberating is that!
This is not to say all God’s beautiful people remain so.
Sin is a destroyer of beauty.
Few things mar a person’s appearance like hard living. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, promiscuity, perversion, worry, conflict, ill will–the list is endless. These things can have a devastating effect on skin, teeth, complexion, everything!
In one of his books Pastor Steve Brown (of the radio program KeyLife) writes about a woman who came to his office for counseling. Everything about her indicated that life had been hard for her. As she began to share her story, she pulled out of her purse a photo of a little girl. “That is me,” she said, as she began to weep. “Oh pastor, when I think what I have done to that little girl, I could just die.”
Once the natural God-given beauty is marred, we resort to tricks and gimmicks.
Cosmetics, jewelry, fancy or loud clothing, elaborate hairstyles, expensive makeovers, and cosmetic surgery can all be attempts to camouflage the passing of what God originally gave but which the persons frittered away.
The Apostle Peter writes about this very thing…
Do not let your adornment be (merely) outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on of apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (I Peter 3:3-4).
God can restore the beauty.
I’m thinking of two women in churches I pastored. As Christ took control of their situations, their facial appearance made a complete transformation. Before, they were–I’m trying not to be uncharitable here–extremely plain, shall we say, and sad-looking. Then, with Christ in their lives, in short order, there was a radiance about them more beautiful than anything Max Factor ever bottled and sold over the counter.
Three times the Psalmist said: Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God. For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God. (Psalm 42:5,11 and 43:5).
The Lord is “the help of my countenance”? You bet He is. He puts joy in the heart, love in the soul, peace in the spirit, and a smile on the face. He gives confidence in one’s manner, clarity in one’s dealings, and a spring in one’s step.
All of that adds up to something inexpressibly lovely.
Two quick questions:
- Why is this important?
Among other things, when we feel good about how we look, we are more confident. And who among us cannot recall the times when we wanted to crawl into a hole because of a bad hair day or something else that left us looking less than our best?
2. Will Christ make me prettier than her?
No, I seriously doubt that. In fact, one of the worst things you and I do toward demeaning ourselves is to compare. It’s completely senseless, as though we were asked to choose which was the more beautiful: a bird, a flower, a smiling child, or a lovely song? Each is unique and its qualities are unlike the others. We can each be beautiful without having to find a pecking order.
And how liberating is that!
Now, say it out loud: “I am beautiful.” Yes you are.
Don’t tell other people you’re beautiful. Just say it in your prayer closet or your room. It’s your little secret with the Lord. He made you lovely and you are claiming that as your birthright in Him.
Once in a writers course, the teacher looked out over the audience of 200 and said, “I want you to look this way and repeat after me: I AM A WRITER.” He reminded us that writers come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of writing. Some people do journals, some blog, some do magazine articles, some write books, and some write notes to friends. “Quit saying I hope to become a writer,” the teacher said, “and own up to what you are now: I AM A WRITER.”
I am beautiful. Go ahead and say it out loud, friend. You are.
Christ made you that way.
Young people can be so hard on themselves, holding to their rigid standard of what is beautiful and applying it so harshly.