Beauty Matters: An Open Letter to My Daughters
To My Daughters,
You innocently approach the adult world of Kardashian sensuality, Swift individuality, and Beyonce boldness.
On the one hand you will be told that beauty begins and ends with you. How you view yourself, how you express yourself. That's what matters most.
But don't believe it. Beauty begins somewhere else, far beyond you.
On the other hand you will be told, "True beauty comes from within."
But that picture is incomplete as well. How easy it is to get caught in the extremes: over-valuing the body or over-emphasizing the soul.
In God's world, the whole world is charged with the grandeur of God, to borrow from Gerard Manley Hopkins.
God unravels Beauty in his Word. And his view unfurls like the tail of a peacock. He considers something beautiful when it is used for its intended purpose.
For Him, Beauty is about suitability.
He used words like "pa-ar," which means to make something into an object of adoration. God promises to "pa-ar" his children. You are the object of his affection.
Or, "hamad." Imagine God delighting or desiring in you, the way you delight in the things He's made. Imagine His intention of obtaining you as his own.
And how about "yapa." We know this word, it's just like our very narrow view of beauty. It means "to be fair or beautiful," yes, but also a little more. It's a very physical word, and describes outward loveliness.
It's used of women and men in God's Word: Sara, Rachel, Esther, Joseph, David, Abigail. All, lovely to look at.
We must be careful with this loveliness, because it can become a source of pride, like it did for Israel. Outward beauty can puff up, to where you rely on it, rather than on God.
And when you rely upon your own loveliness, you can easily offer it to the world like a harlot offers herself to the world.
But this word can also characterize God's presence, as well as God's people. There's a mysterious and even haunting nature to this kind of beauty.
Na-a is a word that indicates what is perfectly suitable. Like Holiness characterizes the Lord's house. How fitting, right?
Then there's na-em. This word relates to character rather than appearance. It's the moral element of beauty.
This word is used to describe God's Word. It is "na-em." Altogether good, altogether pure. When we test God's words, we find they are good.
And if His words are "na-em" how much more He Himself?
One of my favorite words is "hadar." It's almost as if this word was meant just for God himself. It means to honor or glorify. We use this word to describe people only when they reflect this godly quality.
This Old Testament Beauty presents us with a way of looking at the entire world. This otherworldly kind of beauty considered objects, people, relationships, art, events, as contributing to the meaning of God's created order.
Beauty, my dear ones, rises from within and shines from the surface; mixing the temporal with the infinite. It is within, yes. But it is also on the outside, catching our eyes, intoxicating our experience, and frightening us with a holy resonance.
We find patches of beauty, this "Godlight" as C.S. Lewis liked to call it, inside a gaze, within a smile, fluttering in the confines of laughter.
Godlight paints over the skin. It's the "way" your gazes pierce me. The way your faces look when your eyes squint and fill up with joy and tears. This beauty of yours suits the moment.
It trickles out, from within, into a mesmerizing confluence—body and soul. You, the beautiful whole of God’s breath and his mud-molding hand. You, built for aesthetic pleasure and spiritual ecstasy.
I see you, my daughters, “weathered but elegant,” wildflowers stretching stiff and bold toward the sun, climbing it’s rays in tempestuous wonder. (Song of Songs 1:5-17)
Dipping in the breeze, yet wild and stormwashed, your petals seizing the gaze of onlookers from afar! Your fragrance ignites the night with mystery and haunts the day with radiance uncommon; you intoxicate all who walk past.
See Esther parade before the King. None compare to her beauty in all the land. Follow her, daughters: a woman of appeal, a woman of courage. Neglect not the gift of your appearance, and forever build the heart of a warrior princess.
Even David pleased the eye, and Moses’ beauty caused the daughter of Pharaoh to call him special. So, do not despise the loveliness of the flesh.
And yet do not allow it to possess you. Celebrate form, but allow holy reticence to guide your physical expression. Remember, suitability!
Remember how Peter warns: don’t get bogged down with trends and keeping up with fashion. Rather, keep up your spiritual beauty—cultivate and prune so the garden will grow.
For what glows in your countenance is a clear conscience and a pure heart. Worry and stress will darken and drown you.
Imbibe in the beauty of your youth, but always hold it loosely—because it flees and withers. If you let it define you, you’ll wither with it on the inside.
Though your body dims and moves toward the grave, your soul thrives and moves toward eternity. It is like a deep red wine, its savory nature intensifying over time.
And remember, forget the legalists!
They will try to hide all that’s good and beautiful and pure. But do not lash out at them.
No, instruct them through your grace and charm and in the stewardship of your beauty. So they may look upon you and say, "Hadar! They are so much like God."
And do not follow those of cheap grace. They carry bags of sour grapes on their shoulders, pitching insults and idle defenses for their thoughtless actions. For they want so much to be like the beauty of the world.
They will whisper lies to you, “Grace will cover.” But have none of it. The lies of the sensual world tell you to be your best self, that courage is all about your self-expression, that your beauty is your uniqueness, that sensuality is your tool. They will sound like liberated women, knowing not that their beauty is bankrupt.
Remind them how God considered Israel beautiful, and eventually they trusted only in their beauty and became a harlot.
Remind them that nothing is more beautiful than the love of a friend; it gives all, laying down its life for the sake of another.
You are my Warriors Princesses. May your nobility rise to protect you. May you delight in the gift of your body. And may you find strength in the wonder of your beautiful spirit.