On beauty

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Not all beauty looks like this.
Photo cred: Natalie Johnson

By: Nick “Tapobu” Rohlf

There are a lot of things about Western culture that I dislike.  It often pains me to turn on the television or watch a movie simply because of all the little cultural normals that the media attempts to impose upon us.  Perhaps the greatest and most troubling of these impositions is the idea of beauty.  Beauty in our society is best defined as sheer aesthetic appeal.  Looks.  Beauty is that goal towards which we all must strive, a goal ever out of reach.  I must be thinner, I must be more tan, I must have better hair, better make-up, better eye-liner.  I must achieve perfection.  Of course, being a male, one might not believe that I am so terribly affected by such things.  And yet I am.  It pains me to see so many people strive for something that is out of reach – something that is designed to be out of reach, impossible.  Something designed to make people buy products, spend money, remain never satisfied.  What bothers me most about this word “beauty” is not that it is so often misused to sell a product.  No – what bothers me is that the very idea of beauty is so terribly misunderstood.  What bothers me is this notion that “beauty is skin deep.”  It’s not.

Beauty to me is so much more than skin deep.  Beauty has nothing whatsoever to do with skin.  Does this mean my heart fails to race when I see an attractive girl?  Hardly.  I could describe rather exquisitely the most physically attractive person I’d ever seen, detail by detail.  But I wouldn’t be describing beauty.  I’d be describing the inner workings of my own lust.  I wouldn’t be describing someone I’d want to date, someone I’d want to marry, someone I’d want to commit my life and my love to, for better or for worse.  I’d be describing an image that appeals to my mind.

When I speak of beauty, I speak of something much more than this physical appearance.  If you asked me to describe a person who is beautiful to me, of course that person’s face would come to mind, and of course it would be beautiful to me – not by nature of the face itself, but by what it represents.  When I think of the most beautiful people in my life, I see kindness, mirth, joy, laughter.  I see an unabashed willingness to love without bounds.  I see one who is not cowed into submission by the hardships of life.  When I speak of beauty, I speak of a whole individual – a complete person, filled with love and love lost, joy and heartbreak, success and failure.  I speak not of an angel on a pedestal but of one who has at times fallen into deep sadness and brokenness, someone who has endured and in enduring grown strong.

Beauty is a child who lives through impossible torments and yet still writes about the joys of life.

Beauty is a convenience store clerk who says “have a good day” and truly means it.

Beauty is an aged face lined with wrinkles gained by years of smiling through all the pains and all the hardships of human existence.

Beauty is a sixteen-year-old girl whose face bears gunshot wounds earned by standing up for what is good and true and just.

Beauty is any man, woman, or child in any walk of life whose eyes reflect the love of Christ, whether or not Christ is known to that person.

This beauty can’t be bought or sold.  It can’t be manufactured or put in a box.  It is true and it is real and it is within your reach.

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One thought on “On beauty

  1. hmmm…thanks! the question has been posed more than once lately, “Where do you see Jesus’s power at work?” The question makes a spark of joy well up in me, for there are so many places….the faces of the ‘beautiful’ people you describe – with Jesus shining out of them. You’re right, one can’t get that from a bottle. Thanks for posting.

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