Every time I look in the mirror, I’m reminded that I don’t look very beautiful.
Ouch. Did I say that out loud?
Beauty is a sore subject with me, yet over the past few years God has awakened me to its glory. When I experience something beautiful–standing at the ocean or watching my grandchildren play–I am transformed. Writers, like John O’Donahue, have helped me understand that beauty enables us to experience God with our senses.
For the past six months, Doug Schroeder, the director of SoulStream community, and Jeff Imbach, one of the founding partners, and I have been working on a new SoulStream initiative: A Contemplative Response to the World. In our conversations, which take place by Skype, we realized that God is inviting our community to respond, not just to the pain and brokenness in the world, but to its beauty as well.
I enjoyed the work we were doing and looked forward to seeing Doug and Jeff’s faces pop up on my computer screen, but I didn’t like seeing mine.
No wonder I had trouble valuing beauty! From a young age, I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around a God who delights in beauty yet didn’t create me with this gift. I clung to statements like “Beauty is only skin deep” and verses like 1 Samuel 16:7, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” But these consoling messages
only confirmed the fact that I’m not that attractive.
Now that I knew why I was afraid to love beauty, a new way of coming to terms with it seemed possible. I felt hopeful enough to e-mail Doug and Jeff and let them know I had an “aha” moment.
The next time we skyped, Doug asked me to tell them about it. I wished I hadn’t said anything. How would I explain it to them without feeling embarrassed?
But I did. And as I did, Doug wiped tears from his eyes.
They both confessed that they didn’t like seeing their faces on the screen either.
“But, when I look at you, I see brothers that I love so much,” I said.
“That’s how we see you too!” Doug replied.
“Can you believe, when we look at you, we see someone we love?” Jeff asked.
If anyone had walked in on our “I love you, man!” conversation, they might have thought it was the sappiest moment in SoulStream history. But that moment helped me picture God creating me and being immensely pleased with my beauty.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
— Genesis 1:31 (NIV)