Monday, May 16, 2016

Cultivating Beauty- Stasi Eldredge

We have all heard it said that a woman is most beautiful when she is in love. It’s love. It’s true. You’ve seen it yourself. When a woman knows that she is loved and loved deeply, she glows from the inside. This radiance stems from a heart that has had its deepest questions answered. “Am I lovely? Am I worth fighting for? Have I been and will I continue to be romanced?” When these questions are answered, Yes, a restful, quiet spirit settles in a woman’s heart.
And every woman can have these questions answered, Yes. You have been and you will continue to be romanced all your life. Yes. Our God finds you lovely. Jesus has moved heaven and earth to win you for himself. He will not rest until you are completely his. The King is enthralled by your beauty. He finds you captivating.
Beauty is a quality of the soul that expresses itself in the visible world. You can see it. You can touch it. You are drawn to it. Beauty illuminates. Its essence, says Thomas Aquinas, as its “luminosity.” It is bound up with the immortal. Beauty flows from a heart that is alive. We have known women you might describe as “frumpy,” who seemed to care nothing for their appearance. We have seen them become women who possessed great beauty. We watched it grow in them as they discovered that they were deeply loved, as their hearts came alive in response to the Great Romancer. We are romanced. We are loved. When we are at rest in that knowledge, we can offer our hearts to others and invite them to Life.

The Essence of a Woman
The essence of woman is Beauty. She is meant to be the incarnation-our experience in human form-of a Captivating God. A God who invites us.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters…
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
And your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)
“You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
You have stolen my heart
With one glance of your eyes,
With one jewel of your necklace…
You are a garden fountain,
A well of flowing water
Streaming down from Lebanon.” (Song 4:9, 15)
Beauty is what the world longs to experience from a woman. We know that. Somewhere down deep, we know it to be true. Most of our shame comes from this knowing and feeling that we have failed here. So listen to this: beauty is an essence that dwells in every woman. It was given to her by God. It was given to you.
Surely you would agree that God is nothing if not beautiful.
All around us God’s creation shouts of his beauty and his goodness. The silhouette of lace on a barren tree laced draped with ice, the rays of sun streaming forth from a billowing cloud, the sound of a brook trickling over smooth stones, the form of a woman’s body, and the face of a child anticipating the arrival of the ice cream truck all speak of God’s good heart if we will have but the eyes to see. The coming of spring after a hard winter is almost too glorious for a soul to bear. God’s beauty is lavished on the world.
Beauty is powerful. Beauty may be the most powerful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty is transcendent. Beauty draws us to God. As Simone Weil wrote, “The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which can allow God to penetrate us…Beauty captivates the senses in order to obtain permission to pass straight through tot the soul…The soul’s inclination to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses in order to win it.”
God has given this Beauty to Eve, to every woman. Beauty is core to a woman-who she is and what she longs to be-and one of the most glorious ways we bear the image of God in a broken and often ugly world. It’s messy to talk about. It’s mysterious. And that should not surprise us. Women are creatures of great mystery; not problems to be solved by mysteries to be enjoyed. And that, too, is part of her glory.
Women want to impact their world for good. As corulers with Adam, we are created to do so, and one of the key ways we influence our world is in making it a more beautiful place to live. We decorate our homes. We put flowers on the table. Pioneer women brought china teacups into the wilderness. We wear perfume, paint our toenails, color our hair, and pierce our ears, all in an effort to be ever more beautiful.
Beauty is the most essential and, yes, the most misunderstood of all the feminine qualities. We want you to hear clearly that it is an essence every woman carries from the moment of her creation. The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result.

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