“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word…Be here - the King is wild for you…the King’s daughter is all glorious.”
Psalm 45: 10, 11, 13
The Message Bible
Gaining an Understanding of Myself
Day 1: Understanding Myself Physically
“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.”
What five physical attributes do I like about myself?”
“To seek after beauty as an end, is a wild goose chase, a will-o’-the-wisp, because it is to misunderstand the very nature of beauty, which is the normal condition of a thing being as it should be.”
“The body is a sacred garment.”
Over the last several years I’ve had the great pleasure of joining with several groups of women who were using my book When A Woman Meets Jesus in their study group or in a program put on by their church.
Interestingly, more than once, a discussion has surrounded one of the questions in the study guides that asks women to identify specific things they like about themselves. Every time, and with every group, women can quickly point to things they “do” which are admirable – be it work at home or in an office. Women, I must say, are great at getting things done, organizing and planning events, and accomplishing a lot all at once. We’re great jugglers!
But sadly, when it comes down to identifying physical characteristics we like about ourselves, we aren’t so great! And I have found this to be the case repeatedly with all the women I meet with. We pick at ourselves, denigrating this physical feature or another until we can’t look in a mirror without seeing something that makes us groan.
I want to underscore this point because the author of II Samuel makes a point to let us know, without any doubt, that Bathsheba was a beautiful woman. This makes me wonder if it was only the external that caught the man, David’s eye. And how sad this is to say – but this is so often the case and is, I believe, one of the biggest reasons we as women are so concerned about the “external” way we appear.
Unfortunately, women don’t get much help from popular society today either, which uses young girls who are size “O” as models to be the made-up poster “women” for our emulation. Even if we ignore the crazy commercialism in our world, when it comes to understanding ourselves physically, we are still too frequently hard on ourselves without any outside motivation.
And I’ve asked myself, “Why is this?”
Not surprising, I found the Bible’s description of “beauty” to be illuminating – to say the least. In the Hebrew language, there are several meanings for the word beauty. We will look specifically at three of the ways this word is used in Scripture:
#1: In Psalm 27:4 (K.J.V.), David writes about a longing he has: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the “beauty” of the Lord.” In this setting the word beauty means, “pleasantness, grace, delightfulness, and agreeableness.” In other words, David knew that being around the Lord his God would be a totally joyous and wonderful experience. He would have a delightful time.
#2: In I Chronicles 16: 29 (K.J.V.), there is a phrase which we find used four times in the Old Testament. It is: “The Lord in the beauty of holiness.” In this context the meaning of beauty refers to majesty, splendor and glory.
#3: In Proverbs 31: 30 (K.J.V.), Solomon wrote, “Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain.” In this case, the word beauty means to “deck” or to be “bright.” Interestingly, this same form of the word “beauty” is also used in Ezekiel 28:17 (K.J.V.) to describe Lucifer whom the Bible says was, “Lifted up because of thy beauty.” Repeatedly in other passages when vain behavior occurred because someone was so enthralled by their outward appearance, the same form of the word “beauty” is used to describe how we “deck ourselves out” to make ourselves beautiful.
Now here’s the bottom line which highlights the meanings we find that define the word “beauty.” Our first definition for beauty reflects how someone acts – the “grace” radiating from the inside out makes someone beautiful. Definition number two is about the beauty attached to someone because of who they are. Definition number three defines beauty not as a gift nor a beauty coming from the inside, but it is instead a beauty we try to apply to ourselves. It’s something we do to make ourselves appealing to others.
It is interesting to me that the Bible, written thousands of years ago, has such a contemporary message that is so relevant to us as women today.
My understanding of myself physically should be based on who I am – the daughter of the King of the Universe. This “beauty” is the regal splendor of the King, given to me as a princess. But more than that, by accepting the presence of the King in my heart, I will reflect a “beauty” defined as the grace of the King.
The beauty that is defined as, “me trying to deck myself out to catch the attention of others,” is no beauty at all. It is really nothing more than what the Bible calls vanity.
The great dancer, Gelsey Kirkland in describing her quest for the outward fleeting beauty so many of us seek after wrote: “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.”
In her book Two-Headed Woman written in 1980, author Lucille Clifton penned these powerful words as a physical description: “These hips are big hips…they don’t like to be held back. These hips have never been enslaved, they go where they want to go, they do what they want to do. These hips are mighty hips. These hips are magic hips.”
Now girls, I don’t know how many of us would have the bold, brash, courage to describe our bodies this way to each other. Most likely we would be talking about our fat hips or our wide hips, making fun and picking apart our physical appearance rather than embracing the beauty heaven has bestowed on each of us – no matter what our age, size, race, or shape!
I believe the poet Robert Browning put it best when he wrote, “If you get simple beauty and naught else, you get about the best thing God invents.”
“She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes.”
I Am a Woman
“I am a woman
born of God
I am a woman
born of love.
I am caring and competent
vulnerable and powerful
physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I am a woman
reaching out to others
making a difference in myself
and the world.
I am empowering myself
to empower others…
I am a woman
who sees the interconnectedness of all human beings
who values the unique gifts of all.
I am a woman who leads and follows
who accepts responsibility for myself
and the choices I make.
Yes, I am a woman
who sees each day as a new beginning
a chance to grow in self, love, and service.
I am a woman
born of God
I am a woman
born of love
and I can be
all that I am.”
Ms. Katherine Tyler Scott
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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