So—right after publishing my last blog Why “Shitty Women”? I took a shower, and like you do in showers, had a bit of an “aha” moment about one of the things I wrote briefly about.
Specifically, it was this sentence:
“No one responded to me with the vacant “God’s daughter” and “God thinks you’re beautiful” shite that made no sense to me.”
In its context, you see that I implied that people had used those women’s ministryisms in the past, and that does not seem to be part of my current life. (Praise God.)
Let me give you some context into my life, and how the phrase “God thinks you’re beautiful” has been used by others toward me:
I have not been told that I’m beautiful much in my life.
Stop. Halt. This is another one of those places where I feel like I should tell you to not respond with coddling and “encouragement”. Sit. Put away those feelings of needing to fix it.
Of course, being a female, there’s the occasional “girlfriends” moment where another female tells me I’m beautiful—but, full disclosure: I don’t generally trust those moments. It feels contrived about 97% of the time. We can talk about trust issues later.
I can count the number of males that have called me “beautiful” on one hand—if I was missing my thumb and forefinger. I can count the number of times that a male, who wasn’t my grandpa’s age, called me beautiful on one finger. (Note: This excludes instances of sexual harassment on the bus and downtown. I’m really talking about times where being called beautiful felt safe and made me feel loved—not the times where I’ve felt objectified and dirty.)
That one instance happened in my junior year of high school, while I was out on a band trip, and a friend of mine—nothing more—was in the elevator with me, turned to me, and said, “Kim, I just want you to know I think you’re beautiful. Inside and out.” and then we reached our floor, and he walked out.
There were times when I recounted this—the fact that I’ve not been told that I’m beautiful much, and the story I just told you—to women I was around, and without ever acknowledging the feelings I might’ve been feeling (presumably because I’m really fucking bad at expressing emotion)—they would respond with “Well… God thinks you’re beautiful.” Sometimes they might even put the lye-soaked cherry on top with, “and I do too.”
And I would realize that once again my feelings and experience had been dismissed, and that the conversation was over for me. It kind of felt like I was saying, “Excuse me, I have a gaping wound.” and the response was my friend soaking a bandage in lemon juice, rolling it in salt, and applying it to the wound.
In my shower after writing that last blog, as I was all snot and tears and full of fear from writing those words, it hit me: What a terrible fucking invitation to idolatry.
No wonder those words were never comforting to me—because they were rooted in the idol of beauty—an idol that I hated but could never escape. An idol, that for years has spewed at me, “You are not even worthy to worship at my feet.” An idol that I simultaneously railed against, and hated that I railed against it. An idol that I planted my feet against, held up both middle fingers, and worshipped the fact that I didn’t worship it.
Now, I don’t want to dismiss all beauty as idolatry—I believe, in the words of Levi the Poet, that “beauty pulls me beyond myself like I don’t even have a choice, so I know I don’t believe in nothing.”—that God himself is the very definition of beauty, and that every echo of beauty we see in this world is a refection of the divine image.
And I’m certainly not saying being beautiful, or wanting to look beautiful (by whatever standard) is sinful. But that the temptation to worship beauty, instead of the Beautiful One, is real, and prevalent.
The response to the story I told those women to be, “Well… God thinks you’re beautiful…” is nothing short of an invitation to idolatry. It thrusts the notion of beauty back into my hands, onto my body, as though it ever belonged there to begin with—and says nothing to Christ’s beauty. It says that God is concerned with making me beautiful—rather than slowly changing me into a better reflection of His beauty.
It says this is about me. It says beauty is about me.
Rather than Him. His glory. His beauty.
The only reason God the Father might look down on me and see any amount of beauty whatsoever is because He created me in His image, and I am clothed in the beauty of His son. None of the beauty He sees when He looks at me is my own. It is all—ALL—His.
It is my hope that in all things I might reflect His beauty—I know it’s not the case right now—but I also know it will be someday in eternity. I often think about this when I’m downtown during the sunrise. From downtown Seattle, you can’t see the sunrise, because there’s a large hill to the east—but you can see it reflect in the distorted and often dirty and fog-laden windows of the skyscrapers.
I want to be that distorted dirty window that reflects the beauty of the sunrise for others to see when they can’t see the sunrise for themselves. And I believe that one day He’ll make me perfectly clean to reflect that beauty back to its rightful owner.
Rather than trying to reassure other women (and men) that they are beautiful—or that God thinks they’re beautiful—perhaps we should remind them of Christ’s beauty. It is beauty that doesn’t expire with age and gravity. It is far longer lasting (eternal), and more faithful than the sunrise itself.
“The Christ I see in you is beautiful.” is a far higher compliment.