Saturday, September 18, 2010

Pretty Woman

We sing a lot of songs about how God is beautiful. And how do I know that He is beautiful? Because He made men and women in His image, and women are absolutely beautiful. And that's how I know that God is beautiful.

It's crazy that most girls don't think that they are beautiful. And no matter how many times you tell a girl that she is especially stunning, she still has her doubts. I've heard husbands say that they have to tell their wife "I love you" several times a day and yet it's never enough to resolve their wife's insecurities on the matter. I read that women not only need to know intellectually that they are loved but that they need to feel loved. And if a woman doesn't feel loved then she will begin to self-destruct and then all hell breaks loose. In short, a woman who doesn't feel loved doesn't feel like a woman. And it all comes back to beauty. A woman's worth is tethered to her beauty. If a woman doesn't feel loved then she doesn't feel beautiful. And if she doesn't feel beautiful then she feels worthless. Beauty is of utmost importance to the psyche of women. That's why they are constantly swapping lines like "Ahh, you look so cute! I love your hair!" One girl told me that girls will settle for trying to be sexy if they feel like they can't be beautiful. The difference being that beauty is holistic while "sexy" is only external. And so they settle for a shell of true beauty. A mask.

Anyway, I can't help but see the parallels between us and God. It seems that most of us are very insecure about how God feels about us. His Word tells us over and over that He loves us, and that He demonstrated His love toward us. We know intellectually that He loves us and yet we don't feel it most of the time. So we doubt our God-given identity and we feel worthless. So what does it take to feel loved? To feel priceless?

Sometimes, I think that God feels obligated to love me, because He loves everybody. And so there is a part of me that doesn't feel very special if He loves everybody. Maybe, that's the struggle for women. Maybe, that's why they try to find unhealthy validation from guys. After all, it's the idiosyncracies in our identity that are longing to be recognized and appreciated. That's not always pride, we just want to feel known. Even though God sees women as beautiful, they struggle to feel uniquely beautiful. It's like their dad telling them that they are beautiful, for some reason it's not enough. They want a second opinion. So life becomes an endless beauty pageant with countless judges.

So, what exactly is beauty? Why is each and every iridescent sunset so beautiful? What makes the crooning of a violin so beautiful? Why is the poutpouri of Christmas beautiful? There is something that beauty does to our hearts that is difficult to articulate, you just know it when you experience it. It brushes past the senses like a ghost slipping through walls. And perhaps that is why so many women don't feel beautiful, because they aren't quite sure what it really is. But maybe, true beauty is simply a window to God. Wherever we see beauty we see a hue of God. God is not insecure about His beauty, He invented beauty, He defines beauty. And so the more we become like Him then the more beautiful we are. The Bible refers to the beauty of God's holiness. Holiness is awe-inspiring. So if we are resembling that holiness of God then we can also be completely secure in His beauty. And I believe that each and every person exposes a unique angle on God's beauty. We are not the same, and yet we all reflect different sides of the same prism.

With that said, men are wired to appreciate beauty and women want to know that they are beautiful. What a glorious design! But there is a chasm of difference between a woman allowing a man to appreciate her beauty vs. allowing a man to define her beauty. That is God's role, He is the aficionado, the appraiser. A mere man is never to be put in the place of God, in the place of Judge. What's more, I am convinced that only men who have tasted the beauty of God can truly savor the beauty of a woman of God. Godless men know nothing of divine beauty.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Maybe I'll Elope

The other day, I ran into a girl that I knew from Portland. She wore gray sweatpants and a gray sweater that was about 3 sizes too big. She waved to a guy walking across the street and said that he was her new husband and that they are now living in Corvallis. It surprised me, because I recalled seeing her last New Year's Eve and she wasn't even dating anyone at the time. What happened? She explained that an old flame had rekindled and that her and her man decided to elope. Elope? You're probably thinking Oh, they're probably not Christians. Nope, they are Christians. Or you're thinking It was probably the guy's idea. Wrong again, it was her idea. They wanted to save money and not go through the gauntlet of organizing a traditional wedding. It made perfect sense to me.

I just sang at a wedding last weekend. From my piano bench, I watched the whole pricey shebang unfold. The parade of the confused little ringbearer and the doe-eyed flower girl, the entrance of the stalwart wedding party, the groom beholding the dawning of bridezilla, the music, the wedding vows, the exchange of rings, the pronouncement, the kiss, the send-off, more music. The only thing that didn't go according to plan was that one of the bride's maids fainted because she locked her knees, but indeed the show must go on. The whole time, I was thinking Where did all of these crazy traditions come from? Not from the Bible. It's funny how we make up rituals and then act like they are ordained by God. I once read that the act of tying cans onto the back of the wedding getaway car is in order to scare away evil spirits. But how bad could a spirit be if it's intimidated by some tin cans?

I've also noticed that we have traditions when it comes to dating. We approach relationships as if there is some kind of protocol, as if we are coloring by numbers or putting it through an assembly line, and yet every love story is completely different. There's no formula. The third verse is not the same as the first, you have to learn to freestyle. You learn to sail with the changing winds of the Holy Spirit. You discover what makes someone feel loved, and in that, you discover love for yourself. In fact, you can't discover true love without making someone else feel loved. Marriage doesn't have to look the same for everybody. The Bible gives us very loose guidelines. We are told to love each other for life and to not sleep with other people and that's about it. I know one Christian married couple who are in a rock band together. Anyway, I don't like tradition. I don't like forcing things, and I don't like things to be forced on me. I want organic love. We are often so concerned about what other people think. Hype and pageantry is for impressing people, but I think that God gets bored and changes the channel. No one likes watching reruns.

I'm always skeptical of couples that broadcast and showboat their love. It's always a sign of insecurity when people are trying to prove something to others. I always wonder what their relationship looks like behind the scenes. I admire the couples who exude a love of quiet confidence. It's the same thing with Christians. Some Christians are too concerned with loudly convincing others of their love for God. You wonder if their public enthusiasm carries over into their private prayers.

I don't want love that needs embellishment. I'm tired of going after that sparkling mirage and still going thirsty. In the end, I just want to deeply know someone and to feel like they know me. Maybe, love is not about what it looks like on the outside. Maybe, my love story will never become a star-studded Oscar-winning film, and yet under the surface, God will tend to roots that are deeper and stronger than most loves. And with his green-thumb, He will bring about fruit that is sweet and satisfying. The buzz comes and goes, but true love takes time, it ages like a fine wine.