I read an article the other day that is still bothering me. I think that it captures a lie that many men and women believe about beauty and love. A 59-year-old wrote it, but this is the same problem I see in 18-year-olds.
The article starts out with a brave, naked, woman really looking at herself in the mirror, trying to just get honest with herself after a cold rejection. You see, she had met someone on the Internet, and he seemed like a good match. He made an effort to make the drive to meet her in person. She describes him as gentlemanly, and interested in the same active lifestyle as herself. So she was looking forward to getting to know him better by spending the weekend together.
They get in bed together. Naked. He doesn’t really make a move. (Did I mention that this wasn’t a “Christian” article?) All her attempts at “intimacy” were dodged over the three nights and four days together.
Confused after returning home, this woman had to know what the deal was. So she calls him up to ask. He answers matter of factly:
“Your body is too wrinkly,” he said without a pause. “I have spoiled myself over the years with young women. I just can’t get excited with you. I love your energy and your laughter. I like your head and your heart. But, I just can’t deal with your body.”
He then proceeded to offer her suggestions on how she could distract from her age, dress in a way in which he was attracted, and maybe move their physical relationship forward. Thankfully, this woman had enough sense to drop a man that can’t appreciate her for who she is. The article ends after she recognizes her aged but fit body, naked in front of three mirrors, and concludes:
As I looked in the mirror — clear-eyed and brave — I claimed every inch of my body with love, honor and deep care. This body is me. She has held my soul and carried my heart for all of my days. Each wrinkle and imperfection is a badge of my living and of my giving of life. With tears in my eyes, I hugged myself close. I said thank you to God for the gift of my body and my life. And I said thank you to a sad man named Dave for reminding me of how precious it all is.
And yet I was left feeling very sad for this woman, not because of some jerk named Dave whom she did very well to kick to the curb, but because of her expectation for being loved and accepted as beautiful. I’m not all that surprised when I hear of 18-year-olds who expected to hold a man with their bodies, and yet find themselves objectified and rejected. But a 59-year-old should know more about beauty and love.
I think we all, men and women, fall for this lie: that beauty is something to be consumed. We see something beautiful and we think that we must have it exclusively. And we want to be that something beautiful that others will want. And so we lower our standards. We reduce beauty to smooth skin and measurements, or as we age, to a certain level of maintenance and pride.
The thing is, we all want to be more than beautiful. We want to be in the beauty. C.S. Lewis puts it this way in his essay, “The Weight of Glory:”
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.
There are few opportunities on this side of eternity where we get a taste of this experience with beauty. But I believe Christian marriage is one of them. It comes from a sacrificial, sanctifying love through the years. It comes through moving past the youthful, original attributes that attracted us to one another, to a mature appreciation of the scars that mark the progression of our love. You will NEVER get this in a weekend getaway or a one-night stand. That jerk, Dave, was really only articulating the consequences of both his and this rejected woman’s search for beauty. Lewis nails it:
But we pine. The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgement, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.
We are blessed to see beauty all around us. Through our lifetime, we are blessed to share in the beauty. But:
Someday, God willing, we shall get in…
Meanwhile the cross comes before the crown and tomorrow is a Monday morning.
For a time, yes, we have our Mondays. We long for that beautful interplay between the bride and the Groom that we see in the Song of Songs. We long to hear, “Arise, my darling. Come away, my beautiful one. For now the winter is past; the rain has ended and gone away” (SoS 2:10-11). That day, when we see the Groom, we shall get in!
Like Lewis, I challenge you to think of how this eschatological reality changes the way we treat our neighbor:
The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
*Originally published on July 18, 2014.