She was 5 foot 8 on her wedding day. Her embroidered, silhouette white dress streamed to the floor elegantly. Her groom gazed back at his bride with the greatest delight. Her beauty radiated that day. We have pictures of her standing tall, wearing that white dress. Little did she know, her radiant physical beauty would be ravished by rheumatoid arthritis years later. She would eventually have one leg amputated due to an infection and be bound to a moving wheelchair for the rest of her life. She lived more years crippled than she did healthy. She would eventually have to rely on others to care for her every need, paint her nails and do her hair. Her once tall stature would be reduced to a sitting position and her slender hands would be mangled by the damaging affects of the arthritis.
This woman was my Mawmaw, Virginia Lee Pitt. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever known. In my own search for true beauty, I always come back to her. I only knew her when she was confined to her motorized wheelchair. She never picked me up or played dolls with me because she was physically unable. I vividly remember curling her soft, white hair and painting her nails a pale blush color. Even though her hands were gnarled, they revealed a greater beauty within – the beauty that only comes from suffering and walking through trials of life.
Broken, yet Beautiful
The world’s definition for beauty will always come up short. Just walk down an aisle and you will see magazines with photoshopped pictures of women wearing scandalous clothing. This is what the world deems as beautiful. And it is unattainable. According to fashion model, Cameron Russell, these images not only are false depictions of reality, but they also are the root of insecurity. As a model, she speaks firsthand from her experience of living each day insecure and constantly worried about her appearance (link). Why is this? It all goes back to the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs 31:30:
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
The NIV describes beauty as being fleeting. It is here today and gone tomorrow. Physical beauty is like the beauty of a flower. We recently had breathtaking irises bloom in our front yard. Literally, overnight these purple beauties came out for all the world to see! I took time to gaze at them and admire their unique design. But over the next few days, these flowers began to fade and wilt. The blazing sun caused their life to shorten. What was once radiant and vibrant became a figment of the past. The same is true for outer beauty. Our outer appearances won’t last forever. Your pant size won’t always be the same. Your skin won’t always be firm. Your hair won’t always be the color it is. Your height won’t even stay the same as you age! However, one thing will stay with you throughout all of life’s transitions and trials: your heart.
Where you find your worth and how you define your beauty will not only stay with you for the rest of your life; it will also govern where you place your priorities and find your joy. I never once saw my Mawmaw complain about her outer appearance. She loved to wear pastel colors. She appreciated when we would curl her hair. She smiled with the most radiant, confident smile. She wasn’t insecure about her presence because she didn’t define herself by her looks. Instead, she looked to Jesus, always. Though her body was physically broken, she was beyond beautiful. She found her worth in Christ alone. She recognized that this world is but a temporary set-up for the perfection to come in eternity for the believer.
I am sure she struggled inwardly. I know there had to be times when she doubted and maybe even wept with her husband over her physical brokenness. Why do I know this? Because she was human. But as her family, we were able to see the fruit of her continual turning to Jesus. He won every battle in her life. He was the beauty within that never faded and only grew more radiant with each year.
The beauty that Lasts
The beauty that never fades is the beauty of Christ. I may be breaking a stereotype in your head here when I say this, but in the flesh, Jesus wasn’t even beautiful. Isaiah 53 described him this way:
“…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (verses 2b-3)
There you have it. King Jesus, our Savior, Victor, and Redeemer wasn’t desirable physically in the flesh. This was no accident. God was proving a point by this! The physical appearance of Christ reminds us that our bodies are fleeting. Our outer appearance will fade away; it is what is in our hearts that truly matters. Hebrews 1:3 describes Jesus as being “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…” Even in His earthly body, Jesus displayed the glory of God in a way that no other person has. He came bearing the greatest news, the message of the gospel, and He was crucified in our place so we could be redeemed and forever His.
Jesus didn’t come to only draw the physically attractive to Himself. He sat with the crippled, mangled, and broken. He healed the bleeding, blind, and needy. He had no filter through which He saw other people other than the filter of grace. He didn’t judge by outer appearance, but He looked within to the heart. Jesus modeled for us in the flesh that what matters is the kingdom of God. Charm is a liar. Beauty is a vapor. But to fear the Lord? That is to truly be beautiful.
Fear the Lord
Mawmaw feared the Lord. She didn’t fear death or the continued destruction of her body due to rheumatoid arthritis. She didn’t fear what other people thought of her. She feared the Lord. She lifted her gnarled hands during church to sing praises to God. She sung over us with her beautiful voice. She laughed with deep joy. I am convinced that Mawmaw was given the greatest blessing through her physical suffering; she knew Christ more intimately and deeply. She went through life with God’s grace as her guide and the hope of heaven as her gaze. She knew Jesus fully and He shone through her beautifully.
As we close out fashion week, the only way to end was looking back to Jesus and remembering that our clothing will wear out and our outer appearance will continue to fade, but it is the fear of the Lord that grows more beautiful with age. When we look to the mirror of the Word rather than the mirror of the world for our worth, we are filled with greater joy than could ever be imagined. That’s the kind of beauty the world is looking for. It will never be seen on the cover of a magazine, but it will be made known in heaven.
One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Revelation 1. In John’s vision, he sees Jesus in glory, and he was completely undone. He described Jesus like this:
“And in the midst of the lamp stands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace,a nd his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.” (Revelation 1:13-16)
Can you even imagine? At the sight of Jesus John fell down like he was dead. He couldn’t even take it in. Jesus was so majestic, so glorious, so radiant. He is the definition of true beauty.
Live for the beauty that never fades. Gaze into the mirror of the Word before the mirror of the world each day. Christ redefined you at the cross and you are free from the tyranny of insecurity and discontentment, free to live fully in Him. Fear the Lord, for it is in the fear of the Lord where you will encounter the miraculous grace of God in Christ Jesus. And, Jesus, never disappoints.
living for the beauty of Christ,
(Above styled photos by Amanda May Photography)