Many scorn beauty as “a passing pleasure.” They think that the illusive, fragile, fading, temporary, and wrinkle-and-stretch-mark-prone nature of female beauty indicates that men (and women) should just “get over it” and focus on more important things.

Beauty is indeed a passing pleasure. But I think there’s a deeper meaning here that we dare not trivialize. The symbolic importance of beauty/beautification is not unlike the symbolic importance of marriage. Woman’s beauty, and all the broken, distorted ideas about it, will not so much pass, as give way—in the end—to that to which beauty points. There will be no marriage in heaven because the shadow will give way to the reality. Likewise, the illusive, fading, temporary beauty of women will one day give way to the breathtaking, spectacular, eternal beauty of the Bride of Christ.

The gospel doesn’t negate man’s desire to enjoy beauty and woman’s desire to be beautiful, but it does shift the focus of our attention beyond the symbol to that to which it points. When we consider the jaw-dropping picture painted by Scripture, it would seem that our Lord finds our desire for beauty not too strong, but too weak. We get all wrapped up with the earthly and the superficial and temporal, while the supernatural and eternal is offered us. Like an ignorant tourist who spreads out his towel under the picture of the umbrella on the sign, because he does not know that the sign points to the beach. We are far too easily pleased. (Again, a favorite C. S. Lewis thought)

Embracing Beauty

Followers of Christ know that the symbol is not even fractionally as important as the reality. But they understand that it is not totally unimportant either.

So girls, let’s give the guys a break. Let’s stop condemning them for feeling attracted to beauty and wanting us to make a reasonable and sustained effort in that department. And guys… give us a break. Please understand how very personal and painful this issue can be for women. It’s very difficult to stay engaged in fighting a battle we know we are destined to lose. The beauty of our youth will inevitably fade. And most of us don’t have a hope of even remotely resembling the airbrushed model on the cover of the magazine.

 

And let’s always remember that the whole issue of female beauty is merely a signpost. It’s reminder to all of us—male and female—that the King desires our beauty, and that we ought to carefully attend to our character, and to making ourselves spiritually beautiful for that great destination wedding on the other shore.

In my opinion, the answer to the conundrum surrounding the discussion about female beauty is not to diminish or deny its importance, but to exalt and embrace the all-surpassing beauty to which it points.

 

(c) Mary Kassian

Mary Kassian is an author, speaker and professor of women's studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column first appeared on her website, GirlsGoneWISE.com. Born and raised in Canada, she lives with her husband in Edmonton, Alberta.