As you know, I am a first generation Christian. No one else in my family has a personal, grace-filled relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. My parents are wonderful hard-working people who reared me, an independent strong-willed know it all, to the best of their very loving ability.
But they do not know the Lord. As I was growing up, they were not able to preach the gospel to me with their lives and words.
So as a first-generation Christian, I often stumble on scripture and have no clue how it should look in practice. Sometimes it's a cultural problem: I don't understand the cultural context surrounding the passage. Other times I stumble because a passage seems completely impossible to live out: I'm over come by self-condemnation.
When you wrote that you wanted to have conversations with your daughters that showed them:
"What it means to be beautiful.
Who we think is beautiful.
What it is about that individual that makes them beautiful."I suddenly began thinking about one of those passages that I have stumbled on both culturally and with self-condemnation. The passage that I did not want to be the one to address during this series came into a sudden focus.
This Proverbs 31 woman seems so perfect. She spins, weaves fabric, runs a little side business, cares for the less fortunate, and has a husband and children who bless and praise her. She gets everything right and even does some things that defy the cultural norm (buying land!) to benefit her family.
She's so perfect that she intimidates me.
I've always felt that I could never be like her.
But right there at the end of the passage the key to how this woman attains such success is quietly tucked:
"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
But a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."
And it was when I was reading that last part ("a woman who fears the LORD") when everything finally clicked for me.
I know this woman.
I see her three times a week.
Her name is Carol.
And she's not Mrs. Perfect who proudly has it all together. True, she accomplishes a lot; Carol's wrap sheet, if you will, is quite impressive. In fact, within the 7 days before I wrote this, my Proverbs 31 lady has:
- counseled a friend
- baked cookies for 30+ 5th Graders
- mentored and ministered to 2 of those 5th Graders
- baked Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese (mmm!) frosting for workers serving in the nursery.
- served two services in the toddler nursery
- more than likely read a book aloud to her granddaughter on the phone
- led a group of ladies in a Bible study accountability group
- made meals, washed laundry, and otherwise faithfully served her husband
- restocked her pantry because she'd made so many meals for others that she was running low on food
- hugged so many people that she's probably lost count
She might even sound like we could never rise to her standards, just like the Proverbs 31 woman.
Yet, Carol isn't proud of these things. You would never once hear her boast of them. No, indeed, you'd never hear Carol boast of anything except the Lord Jesus Christ, whom she fears (or is in awe of, if you prefer). Her list of accomplishments accumulates because she loves the Lord.
Carol weeps openly over her sin. She cries with those who mourn. Her eyes pour forth rivers of joyous gratitude. Because she loves the Lord, Carol delights to love and serve others. She serves others because, in the death and resurrection of her Lord, she has found the purpose for living: Bringing glory to the One who deserves all glory and honor and praise.
Carol is one of the most beautiful women I know.
Does she meet the cultural standard of beauty here in America.
Her white hair, her lovely wrinkled laugh lines, and her ever-present cane are practically the antithesis of the Clairol-ed hair, Botox-ed wrinkles, and fantastically fit bodies that our culture worships.
But, Carol loves the Lord Jesus in such a way that her spirit shines with the Image of God, living its full, beautiful purpose.
And that is what I want to tell my daughters is True Beauty.
That Beauty is what I hope I can embody one day as a daughter of the most Beautiful King.