Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Beauty

Let’s Not Knock Beauty

The longer I live, the more I see that balance is hard to achieve. That’s one of the (many) reasons why I need to keep coming back to Scripture again and again, repeatedly challenging my own worldview. I need to be constantly challenged to prove that what I believe about something (whether conscious or sub-conscious) is being corrected and informed by the mind of God.

One example of how I’ve been challenged lately is by thinking about beauty. As a father of three daughters, I’m responsible for thinking hard about beauty and trying to help my girls learn to value what God values.

Pendulum to the Left

In our culture, beauty, body image, being physically attractive — this is everything! Girls grow up in our day learning the fine art of taking photos of themselves constantly, always trying to make themselves look attractive.

Joe Carter posted some interesting facts on ‘female body image‘ back in April that indicate some very serious concerns about the emphasis our culture places on physical beauty:

3. By age 6, girls start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.

4. The best-known contributor to the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa is body dissatisfaction. The median ages for onset of an eating disorder in adolescents is 12- to 13-years-old. In the United States, 20 million women suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some time in their life.

5. Only four percent of women globally consider themselves beautiful.

Clearly, our culture swings the pendulum toward a view of external beauty that places far too much of a burden on girls and women in particular. Young women are being led to live and die — literally — for beauty.

Pendulum to the Right

Conservative Christians, like me, are able to discern the disproportionate value being placed on externals. We see that it doesn’t line up with God’s heart (1 Sam 16.7), so we call on each other to esteem hearts over clothes. We hear the words of the New Testament that call us to modesty of dress (1 Tim 2.9-10; 1 Pet 3.3-6; 1 Cor 12.22-24), so we call on each other to prioritize good works and good character over fashion.

And that’s all right and good.

But, there’s a tension present in Scripture that needs to pull us in from both the right and the left of the pendulum, back towards the centre.
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The Beauty of My Wife

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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Today I just wanted to follow up on yesterday’s anniversary thoughts with a brief note on the beauty of my wife. Regardless of anyone else’s evaluation of her, I know Stacey to be the most beautiful woman in the world. I know that because she lets me see her heart. I have the unique privilege, of all the men on the earth, to know my wife intimately on a personal, emotional, and spiritual level.

Here’s how the appreciation of beauty is related to relationship, specifically friendship:

The world thinks we idealize our friend, and tells us that love is proverbially blind. Not so: it is only love that sees…. We only see what dull eyes never see at all. If we wonder what another man sees in his friend, it should be the wonder of humility, not the supercilious wonder of pride. He sees something which we are not permitted to witness. Beneath and amongst what looks only like worthless slag, there may glitter the pure gold of a fair character. That anybody in the world should be got to love us, and to see in us not what colder eyes see, not even what we are but what we may be, should of itself make us humble and gentle in our criticism of others’ friendships. Our friends see the best in us, and by that very fact call forth the best from us. — Hugh Black, Friendship

If that is true in friendship, then how much more in marriage. Beneath whatever flaws anyone else might see, what I see is ‘the pure gold of a fair character… the very best’ in her. Love is not blind; love sees truly, more than what others are permitted to witness. As we have lived together, talked together, and seen each other in all manner of circumstances these past seven years, I consider it a privilege like no other to be granted access to my wife’s heart–to see what makes her so beautiful. The more I come to know her, the more I stand back and rejoice in her beauty.

I’m sure you men who are married would say the same of your wives. To see her heart is to see something so tender, so precious, so gentle and loving and kind that it is hard to put words to it.

I think that in experiencing this, we’re beginning to taste something of the heart of God. 1 Peter 3.4 says to women: ‘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.’ Where once I spoke of ‘inner beauty’ with a vague idea of what it meant, after living with my beautiful wife these past seven years, I think my hard-heart (and hard-head!) is finally beginning to get it. And what I see is glorious. It makes me love my wife like I never thought I could. And it makes me love my God even more.

Homesickness

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

I had an opportunity today to realize just how powerful general revelation can be. Call me crazy, but working in Niagara Falls, I very rarely actually look at the falls. Today, however, during a break at work, I sat and watched one of the most elegant and beautiful displays of God’s power in nature that the world knows for about 10 minutes. I couldn’t help but be filled with a longing for God and for all his glory to be revealed in all its splendour and majesty. I think it was something along the lines of what CS Lewis called “homesickness”. I was drawn… and I can’t help but feel that I’m not alone.

It cannot be denied that there is some mystically divine draw, some special allure to the power and majesty of God that is revealed in nature. Millions of people every year stream to Niagara Falls. It is the honeymoon capital of the world! Why is that? Is it because there are casinos and nice hotels? No… those are there to capitalize on the people that were coming anyway. Rather, people come to Niagara Falls to fall in love, get married, spend their honeymoon, or just to get away, because of the special emotional and spiritual draw to such a place… to such a wonder.

The problem, of course with discussing this draw is similar to the problem of describing why a joke is funny. By the time you’re done analyzing it, it is completely demystified, and the mystery is never done justice. It’s like trying to explain why just looking at my wife still gives me such a thrill inside… it makes me quiver and smile and want to woo her all over again. But how can you explain why there is that pull? It is, to be sure, more than the sum of its composing parts.

But the effect cannot be denied. God has revealed himself and men the whole world over search for him. And what Augustine said so many hundreds of years ago still rings true in our world today: “You (God) made us for yourself, and our hearts have no rest till they find it in you.” God himself is the true sovereign joy, he calls us to himself in things like Niagara Falls by giving us just a hint of the wonder and splendour and majesty and beauty and glory that are his… and we long for that joy. We long for that God, our maker, who knows us intimately, who longs to establish his glory by granting us that ultimate soul-satisfying joy that defeats and casts out any former joy we ever could have known in our sin! What a great God!

But… alas, then it was back to work. It’s just interesting to me how it only takes a brief moment to notice all that and to fall all the more in love with our God. But yet how often we go through the day spending hours and hours on meaningless things and never even notice that the wonder all around us was there to be beheld if only we would pause and look…

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