Outward Decay, Inward Renewal - Part 2
- Carolyn McCulley Author & Contributing Writer
- 2007 30 May
Gilding the Pig
We see this every day in the popular media. Incredibly stunning women are stunning the rest of us with their scandalous behavior and jaw-dropping vulgarity. Sometimes it seems the prettier they are, the trashier they live and speak. We live in a time when the power lust seemingly promises to women is not only tolerated, it is celebrated. As I wrote this, the nation was shocked by the crude and offensive actions of a female star on live television. There’s no need to mention the details because, unfortunately, she probably will be upstaged by someone else in a few months and this particular episode will become a footnote in history.
Why am I sure of this? Because an astute observation in Proverbs notes that this lack of good judgment and modesty is not uncommon to women of any age. Proverbs 11:22 drives home this point with comic hyperbole: “Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”
King Solomon wrote this proverb, and he, with his 700 wives and 300 concubines, would have the demographic research to back up his observation—as well as the hard-learned lessons about the corrupting influence of indulging himself with so many women. “No man ever lived who has had as much experience with women as King Solomon, who ‘loved many strange women,’” writes pastor and author Herbert Lockyer. “Solomon could be expected to say something about the vices and virtues of women, as he does, particularly in the Book of Proverbs. . . . In no other book in the Bible do we find so many references to loose women and grim warnings against any association with them, as in Proverbs.”
What does indiscretion look like? We may compare ourselves with the woman in the latest media scandal and think we’re doing fine. But that’s not the standard for a godly woman. I’ve found invaluable advice in the points that Nancy Leigh DeMoss raises in her Portrait of a Foolish Woman, based upon the adulterous woman described in Proverbs 7:
The foolish woman in this passage approaches her prey with a bold greeting. She throws herself on this man—physically and verbally. She evidences the lack of discretion and restraint that is so common between men and women today. Even in church it is not unusual to see women casually, carelessly throw their arms around men. Such behavior may not have immoral intent, but it is foolish. At best, it pulls down appropriate restraints that ought to exist between men and women; at worst, it can lead to grave sins against God. . . .
The foolish woman is indiscreet—she talks freely about intimate subjects that should be reserved for conversation with her husband. One of the most disconcerting aspects of various highly publicized sex scandals in recent years is the open, candid talk about private matters that has been splashed throughout the news media. Explicit sexual language that was once considered inappropriate outside the bedroom has now become part of our everyday vocabulary. . . . We need to teach young women that there are things you don’t talk about in mixed company. Indeed, there are personal matters between husbands and wives that should not be discussed even with other women.
One of my single guy friends once made this comment, and I noted it immediately: “When I see an outwardly attractive woman do or say something that is foolish or worldly, it is like a slap in the face to me. I can’t turn away fast enough. But when a godly woman does something to encourage someone else, I bless God for her and more than once such actions have caused me to consider her in prayer.”
Inward Beauty: Precious to God, Attractive to Others
As attractive as that kind of appeal is to men, it is more important to consider how God views it. 1 Peter 3:3-4 says: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” In this verse, we not only find a kind of imperishable beauty, we also find how God values it—precious.
It may be hard to understand how a quiet and gentle spirit would make a woman beautiful. It sounds so mousy. At least that’s what I thought when I first read that passage as a new Christian. My views had been shaped by the temperamental divas of popular culture—high-maintenance, self-centered, dramatic women who seem to drag men hooked by the nose in their wake. These divas commanded attention—but a quiet and gentle woman? How could she be beautiful?
I’ve since learned that a woman who is quiet and gentle is not contorted by stress, anger, or impatience. Her laughter, and not her frowning, is etched in the lines of her face. There isn’t turbulence in her air space from all her agitation and distrust. She’s not wound so tight that she vibrates with irritation and anxiety. Instead, this woman has learned, as the Countess of Blessington once said, “There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness.”
A quiet and gentle woman is like a weaned child. She trusts the Lord, and this lack of fear makes her radiant. Psalm 34:4-5 says:
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
If you are discouraged about growing older and losing beauty as the world defines it, then I hope you will be encouraged by this verse. You can cultivate radiant beauty simply from trusting the Lord in circumstances like your singleness. You need never be ashamed when you are looking to Him! When you seek the Lord as you are tempted by fear and trust Him to work out your circumstances, the more radiant you will become.
Let me assure you that worthy single men do notice this kind of beauty. I have it on good (male) authority that men are intrigued by women whose satisfaction is in God. There’s a mystery there that is captivating. They also understand and appreciate the concept of inner beauty. One of my single men friends once said this profound statement: “Inner beauty points to heaven. Outer beauty points to destruction.”
Now you may be reading this article with many misgivings. Perhaps you suffer from a physical limitation or a feature you consider a deformity. I pray that you have been encouraged by the Bible’s perspective on everlasting inner beauty. I also think you could be cheered by the words of one woman who knows such challenges better than I.
“Suffering keeps swelling our feet so that earth’s shoes won’t fit,” Joni Eareckson Tada writes. “My atrophied legs and swollen ankles, curled fingers and limp wrists are visual aids in a children’s Sunday school lesson on Isaiah 40:6,8: ‘All flesh is grass . . . the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever’ (KJV).”
Joni is a woman who exudes inner beauty, even though she is—wheelchair and all—a pretty woman on the outside. I’ve been to several dinners when she has blessed the participants with her fine singing, leading the group in resonant old hymns. She is fascinating to watch. Her joy commands your attention. But as a quadriplegic, Joni admits she is looking forward to the fulfillment of Isaiah 35:4-6:
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
“For me, verses like this are not cross-stitched promises nostalgic of a vague, nebulous and distant era,” she writes. “It’s part of the hope I’m already stepping into, the time when Jesus will ‘transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body,’ (Philippians 3:21). I like that part about new bodies.
“But my hope isn’t centered around a glorious body. It goes far beyond that.”
It’s a mystery what awaits the Christian in that resurrected body but I’m fairly sure that no matter how glorious these new bodies will be, or how brilliant our inner beauty will be when sin is completely absent, we will be utterly unaware of it all when we stand in heaven. Instead, I think our attention will be elsewhere—we will be utterly captivated by the beauty of the Lamb.
We have no description of what Jesus looked like when he lived on earth, but the prophet Isaiah had foretold that He “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him; nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2 NIV). The apostle John, however, had a vision of the ascended Lord, and He was both breathtakingly beautiful and terrifying in His grandeur:
I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:12-18 NIV)
This is the One we will spend eternity worshiping. We will also be dwelling in otherworldly beauty. John described his vision of the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of the heaven of God “having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal” (Revelation 21:10-11). This city doesn’t need sun or moon to shine on it, “for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb” (v. 23).
As we consider this kind of beauty and majesty, it is right that our own physical glory should be hebel (emptiness or vanity). The creature should be the lesser being; it is a reminder that we exist to glorify our Creator. Yes, dear friends, outwardly we are fading away, but that’s not the end of the story. Scripture tells us we will spend eternity contemplating God’s everlasting beauty.
May David’s words be the banner over our mirrors:
One thing have I asked 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 gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple (Psalm 27:4).
Adapted from Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred by Carolyn McCulley. © 2004 by Carolyn McCulley. Published by Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois. Used by permission.
Carolyn McCulley works for Sovereign Grace Ministries in church and ministry relations. She is also an author ( Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred) and blogger (solofemininity.blogs.com). Carolyn is also a member of Covenant Life Church where one of her favorite ministries is the single women's discipleship program. She highly recommends the resources for singles from the New Attitude conference and blog.
Your questions answered! Carolyn will periodically answer Crosswalk.com reader questions in her Singles Q&A columns. To be considered, please send your questions regarding singleness and related topics to Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.