Am I Beautiful?

Challenged by this question in a recent magazine article, I stood in front of the mirror and asked myself, “Am I beautiful?”

I’m 70 years old.  That was not the question.  Am I beautiful?  My eyes are puffy underneath, my skin has some fine lines and discoloration in a place or two.  That was not the question.  Am I beautiful?  I’ve given birth to seven children and my stomach isn’t flat.  But that was not the question either.  Am I beautiful?

That’s the question — a haunting question —  am I beautiful right now, at this season of life, with all my past, with my present realities, with future dreams, some of them beginning to be realized, others seemingly impossible at times.  Am I beautiful?

I couldn’t answer outright, “Yes, or No.”  So, I stood in front of that mirror pondering the meaning of beautiful, why it was so difficult to answer, and how to answer the question honestly.  At face value, ‘beautiful’ would mean ‘full of beauty’ —  therefore, what is beauty?  And is it important? 

According to Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the American English Language, the word ‘beautiful’ comes from two words, beauty and full, meaning “elegant in form, fair, having the qualities which constitute beauty, or that which pleases the  senses other than the sight; a beautiful sound, fragrance, etc.”

Ahhh, now were’ getting somewhere.  The definition begs the question, “What constitutes beauty?”

Webster says ‘beauty’ is an assemblage of graces, or properties in the form of the person or object which pleases the eye.  In general,  . . . beauty consists in whatever pleases the eye of the beholder, whether in the human body, in a tree, landscape, or in any other object.

Beauty is intrinsic and perceived by the eye at first view, or relative, to perceive which the aid of the understanding and reflection is requisite.  There is a beauty of utility — a bottle opener is beautiful when you feel like you’re dying of thirst and can’t get the bottle open.  The word, beauty, is used to express what is pleasing to the other senses, or to the understanding.  Thus, we say, the beauty of a thought, of a remark, of sound, etc.

Still I stand before the mirror, armed with definitions and understanding, and I hesitate.  Something holds me back from answering.  Am I beautiful?

Is that which I see before me pleasing to my eye?  Are the signs of aging pleasing to my eye, or do I only value the smooth skin and fairness of youth?  Is that tummy a beautiful reminder of carrying  to full term the seven children, each one a blessing and a joy or do I regret using my body to give life?  Do I have the beauty of utility, of having been and being now useful?  Am I intrinsically beautiful?  Is my beauty relative to the beauty of someone else?  Where do the values by which I measure beauty come from?  What has shaped my understanding of how to judge beauty?  What helps me know that I am beautiful, or that I am not beautiful?

I have to go outside of myself for the answer.  I have to go to the One Who created me.  The Creator of any object declares the worth, value, usefulness, pleasure, and purpose of that object.  It is in His eyes, His heart and mind, that beauty is defined.  Only as I look in that mirror and see myself as God sees me, will I be able to answer the question honestly and truthfully.

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful to you, Father God?  Do I have intrinsic beauty so that when You look at me You see beauty?

Hidden in Your Son, wearing His righteousness, I am beautiful to you.  How do I know this?  You told me so.  All through the scriptures, I learn how beautiful righteousness is to You.  Not my righteousness.  That’s a filthy rags, but the righteousness of Your Son.  You give me a crown of beauty.  (Isaiah 61:3). The Song of  Solomon tells me that to You my form is lovely (Yes, even after bearing seven children) and my voice is sweet to You.

Do I have relative beauty — relative to all the other creatures You made?  Yes, that, too!  You tell me that I am a treasure for your own possession, pleasure and enjoyment, above all the other peoples on earth.  I have relative beauty and value.

Do I have the beauty of utility?  Am I useful to you on this earth?  You have given me this beauty also by giving me purpose, a job to do, a light within, a word of truth, encouragement and hope for a weary world. . . . a world that desperately needs beauty.

Am I beautiful?  Yes, by every standard, I am beautiful.

The Father says to me, “My child, you are made in My image.  You are beautiful!”

Mirror, Mirror on the wall . . . Yes, I am beautiful!!

And why is that important?

(c) Patricia H. Smith,  3/12/2020