Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God.”
Revelation 21: 3
Today’s Text for Study:
“And she (Bathsheba) was very lovely to behold.”
II Samuel 11: 2
“Lovely to Behold”
“Oh, grieve not, ladies, if at night
ye wake to feel your beauty going
It was a web of frail delight,
Inconstant as an April snowing.”
Anne Hempstead Branch
How has my outward appearance affected my thoughts about my personal worth?
Have I ever judged others by their exterior appearances before I got to know the “real” persons they were inside?
“If you go through life trading on your good looks, there’ll come a time when no one wants to trade.”
Lynne Alpern and
“I embarked on a risky course of plastic surgery and silicone injections, major dental realignments and gruesome medical procedures. I pray that young dancers, those who imitate me at their peril, will avoid this blind alley. It is more than a dead end; it is a dead beginning.”
Principal Ballet Dancer
Many years ago, before Jim and I met, one of my co-workers at a clinic where I was a Family Nurse Practitioner, got the idea of trying to play match-maker and she set me up on a date with her single brother. After finding out that I loved classical music and everything associated with the live performance of this timeless genre of music, the gentleman arranged for us to go on a date to the opening night of the Los Angeles Ballet. From our front row seats, I must say that the extravaganza I witnessed, to the music of Swan Lake, is still a pleasant memory. Watching the ballet dancers spin, twirl and leap was truly a marvel.
However, I freely admit that during the execution of the performance, I didn’t give one thought to the toll all the physical effort would take on the human body.
It wasn’t until years later, when a close friend of mine, who had taken ballet lessons as a young child, told me about the rigorous and painfully brutal practice sessions which consumed her time as a young girl, that I began to recognize there is a very steep price to pay for much of what we at times look at or view and then label as beautiful.
If you take a moment to reread the quote at the beginning of this section of our devotional, you’ll note that the much admired and famed ballerina, Gelsey Kirkland, lays out clearly the price she paid to exude beauty and grace. Her life, which in her memoir, Dancing on My Grave, chronicled her struggles with eating disorders and drug addiction shows the cost of striving for absolute physical perfection.
While being a principal ballerina may not be an endeavor which has brought you to the edge of a cliff, pushing your beyond human limits to excel, for each of us as women, (and men, too!), the constant hype that permeates everyday life, which encourages us to be more beautiful, to be thinner, and to become more perfect…serves only to make us feel as though nothing we do is ever good enough. Jessamyn West really hit the nail on the head when she observed that, “The tragedy of our time is not that we are so eye centered, so appearance besotted. The tragedy is that we do not know what we like until we are told by our advertisers and entertainers.” Sadly, by letting outside forces define for us what is beautiful, our personal perception and others, has become so upside down, we don’t recognize value when it is staring us in the face – even in our own faces!
Instead of acknowledging the beauty I reflect as my Father’s child, I get up every day, only to gaze in a mirror and focus on some inconsequential flaw that I have, whether it is the freckle on my nose, the crimp in my ear lobe or the extra roll of fat on my tummy. And girls, don’t tell me this sounds off base. It’s not. It is common operating procedure!
I can still remember going to town with my size 6 friend who had to ask me the ever-present question as she was trying on a pair of blue jeans. “Dorothy, do these pants make me look fat?” I know you’ve heard this question. Maybe you have even asked this question yourself. Well, here is what I told my dear friend. “It’s impossible for a size 6 to look fat -- you look gorgeous!”
Unfortunately however, even in Bible times, the writers of Scripture took note of the outward appearance of individuals – both female and male. Take for example the Old Testament story of two sisters, Rachel and Leah. In Genesis 29: 17, we find this description of these two women: “Leah was tender eyed; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured.” The Hebrew describes “tender eyed” as “weak” eyed which may mean Leah couldn’t see well. Maybe it was comments through history such as this one that led the noted author Dorothy Parker to write the now famous rhyme, “Men seldom make passes, at girls who wear glasses.”
Whatever the intent of the writer of Genesis, you’ll note that after the “weak-eyed” description of Leah, the Bible states, “but,” as if to contrast the lesser beauty of Leah with the more attractive appearance of her sister, Rachel.
Here is where carrying the load of a perceived “less than optimum” appearance becomes weighty. But so too can extraordinary beauty be difficult to handle for one whose entire life is based on the external value of their gorgeous appearance.
In 1665, Ninon de Lenclos had this comment, “If God had to give a woman wrinkles, He might at least have put them on the soles of her feet.” When I read this I got to thinking that it doesn’t matter when women happened to be born, the emphasis on external beauty has always captured so much of our time it would be amazing to see what we all could have accomplished if not for the fact that so much of our day wasn’t put into reworking, remaking and reforming what our Father created us to be in the first place.
And lest you think I’m suggesting we as women let ourselves turn into unkempt blobs – I’m not. But when, as in the story of Bathsheba, before a person’s name is even known, her external beauty is heralded as the asset of choice, let me just say, the priorities are all wrong.
Thankfully, the Bible contains lessons that can be effective teachers in helping us, as women and men, to learn to look at each other the way our Father looks at each one of us. “God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face, God looks into the heart” (I Samuel 16: 7, The Message Bible). What a great way for us to find the true value in every person we meet by getting to know someone’s heart.
“This uniform could be much worse;
Three-layered skin, blood, sinew, bones.
When God came to work here,
God wore it, once.
When God comes to work here,
God wears it, still.”
Rev. Sharon K. Dunn
“ Today, O Lord-
let me put right before interest:
let me put others before self:
let me put the things of the Spirit
before the things of the body:
let me put the attainment of noble ends
above the enjoyment of present pleasures:
let me put principle above reputation:
let me put Thee before all else.”
A Diary of Private Prayer
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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