I’ve been surprised recently by some traffic coming to this post on catcalling from this article on lust and beauty by my friend Alan. It has “given me furiously to think,” as Poirot would say. I’d hesitated to post those thoughts because they’re neither particularly detailed nor particularly original (not that I’ve tried to track down sources). But after reading this post by my friend Amanda, I think they might be worth sharing anyway.
A good chunk of our problems with beauty–desiring it, chasing after it, not recognizing it in ourselves, whatever–is a serious misunderstanding of the purpose of human life. We’re not made to please ourselves. Others are not made to please us, nor are we ultimately made to please others.
We are made to please God.
Now, that’s not as onerous a purpose as it sounds. Pleasing God can mean taking delight in His creation, enjoying the fellowship of others, and receiving His gifts with gratitude and grace. It can mean giving as freely as we have received. And for some people, it can mean all the great things that come with marriage when it lives up to the allegory of the relationship between Christ and the church.
But recognizing that, in the immortal words of VeggieTales, “God made you special and He loves you very much” should shift our understanding of what we’re doing here. We shouldn’t be obsessing about our looks in the hope of feeing better about ourselves or of getting attention. We should be caring for our bodies because God gave them to us and expects us to be good stewards of His gifts. We shouldn’t view others’ beauty as something that is owed to us, and we definitely shouldn’t view ourselves as “God’s gift to men/women.” We’re meant to reflect God’s glory and His beauty to others and back to God Himself, regardless of what our outsides look like.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire”)
“You have made us for Yourself,” prays Augustine in the Confessions, “and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” I don’t think any of us will completely get this right until that day, when at last we will be His finished handiwork and both as fully like Him and as fully ourselves as we can be. But all the same… “Not to us, o Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give glory” (Ps. 115:1).