This week my Lent course is considering beauty. Our beauty. That I am a beautiful person with a beautiful body.
Did you just do a double take ? Surely lent is about sacrifice and preparation and the denial of self? Maybe.
I was surprised (although after three weeks of this course less surprises me!) initially but in the past day as I have let these thoughts sink in I realize that actually recognizing my beauty is a denial of self and a preparation for accepting Easter and all that it tells me of how enormous God’s love is for me.
It is a denial of the self that wants to tell me that I am not beautiful, I am not worthy of love or a second glance. The self that has a counter argument for every positive I might feel about me.
I tell my children constantly that they are beautiful. They are so beautiful. Today I asked them to tell me what they thought was beautiful in themselves, and what they liked about themselves.
The youngest immediately said “ I am not like anyone else”. To him, his uniqueness is beautiful and likeable. He is six. He hasn’t yet felt that he doesn’t fit in, or has to be different to be liked. He is secure in the knowledge that he has been made to be just as he is.
The next told me about her beautiful eyes and her fantastic ability to hug people. When I agreed that both are beautiful she beamed. She wasn’t shy about telling me of her beauty.
The oldest was a little more hesitant and described 3 physical characteristics which she likes about herself. She then immediately turned the question on me , “ So Mum tell me what you think is beautiful about you?”.
Before asking the children I had been trying to think of what was beautiful about me. I really struggled to even form the question in my head. Not because of a false modesty but because every time I would come up with a thought of something I liked in myself, I’d hear a counter voice being raised.
I like that I am kind and put people at ease, and can make anyone feel welcome and at home. The counter immediately came in …… ‘what you have done recently hasn’t been kind. You’re not kind. You’re horrible. How can you claim that for yourself ?’
I tried again. I think part of my beauty is in my passion for things – I am a person who makes things happen. The counter spoke…. ‘but you probably just come across as a bit unhinged in your enthusiasm. And you’re inconsistent. That’s not a good thing.’
It was becoming exhausting. I’ve been told I have a beautiful smile. Maybe that could be something I could claim as my beauty? No pause before the counter told me ‘the person who told you that so much and made you feel special turned out to be untrustworthy. So all your smile got you was pain.’
Defeated. Utterly defeated.
Until – I thought of Easter. I thought of a God who created me and who says (present tense) that I am very , very good and I am beautiful. Who redeems and forgives and doesn’t mark me as ugly and bad because of my sinfulness or my inconsistency or my smile. Who wants me to believe, like a child, that I am beautiful because there is no one else like me.
So I think that thinking On Beauty is entirely appropriate for Lent. It is involving self denial in order to allow God’s love to permeate every part of my heart and mind and soul and body.
Go well in the knowledge that you are beautiful and very, very good.