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I’m about to tell you something you’ve heard from just about everyone in your life 100 different times. You heard it from your mom first, then your dad, then your friends and youth group leaders, then your grandmother and the preacher and your camp counselor. It comes from the Bible and is paraphrased and repeated often, especially to young women. It’s this: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart ” (1 Sam. 16:7).
It’s telling how often I’ve blogged about beauty this year. A topic I avoided for a long time, I think because I was in denial about my shallow views of it. But the reality about me and my thoughts on beauty is that I turned 28 on Saturday and that 1 Samuel verse is just starting to sink in. That’s 28 years of outward appearance-focused living, folks. And let me tell you, if you don’t already know, it’s exhausting.
I had lunch last week with a wise friend and mentor. Among several other things, she mentioned this simple phrase, that God looks at the heart. And I walked away from lunch repeating those words to myself as if I had never heard them before. What does this mean for me, I thought, if God looks at the heart?
Beauty is incredibly subjective. What’s beautiful today was not beautiful in the 19th century and what will be beautiful 20 years from now is not beautiful today. And since God exists outside of time and He only looks at the heart anyways, this makes cultural beauty standards so very irrelevant. Ann Voskamp wrote a beautiful piece to her daughter about beauty that reminded me of so many important things:
“The world will say they will love you if you are beautiful —- but the truth is you are beautiful because you are loved.”
“The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.”
“The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”
Hard and holy things. I guess this would not include panicking when my jeans are a tad tighter than they were last week or examining my “love handles” for an incredible amount of time in the mirror or sizing up every other girl in the restaurant, thinking of what’s better about me than her and better about her than me. The world doesn’t need women like that, the woman I am most days.
The hard and holy things? Sure, they are acts of service and loving others and restraining judgment. But I think the hardest holy thing is within us. It’s how we speak to ourselves and how we view ourselves. It’s choosing to pay more attention to your own heart and deciding that beauty isn’t something you’re attaining but rather, that it is innate. That it is already in you and your job while here is to decide which beauty you will project on this earth, your own or His.
And you will choose your own often. You will choose it when the guy passes you up and you say it is because–the worst phrase humans ever made up–“he is out your league.” You will choose it when you go to the pool this summer and spend more time looking at your reflection in the water than actually enjoying the water. You will choose it when you beat yourself up for never being able to lose those last ten pounds. It is a process and it is a journey and this why everyone in your life has told you at least 100 times that “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” And this is why we won’t stop reminding each other of it.