Wrapped in Gold
Thanks to the media, American women's definition of beauty has scaled to impossible heights, mostly achievable through severe diets, hyper exercises, and a scalpel or three. We define beauty by perfection of form and feature, and few of us measure up. Seeking to bridge this gap, last year Americans spent $3.4 billion on cosmetic surgery.
Despite the trends, we don't need more procedures or miracle diets; we need a new understanding of beauty. True beauty should reflect something greater than itself. God intends beauty—both internal and external—to reflect his brilliance and draw us closer to him
In Old Testament times, temple furnishings were wrapped in gold and brass. So when the candles and oil lamps burned, the brilliance within the temple must have made the Israelites wish for sunglasses. The building's glowing, gold tones reflected God's bright, "Shekinah-glory" presence. Surely God designed the temple so lavishly to mirror his beauty. Physical, structural beauty became an icon, a sign pointing to him.
In the same way, our faces, bodies, and outward appearance are icons or signs directing other people's attention beyond our own forms to God. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). All the more reason to pay attention to the skin and bones that house God.
So then, nothing is wrong with looking good—for the right reasons.
We care for our bodies not so others approve, love, marry, or hire us. Instead, we care for our bodies because, as a T-shirt says, "If you don't take care of your body, where will you live?" Somewhere between ignoring and obsessing lies good self-care: exercising regularly, eating well, sleeping enough, dressing attractively but not seductively. Then we can carry the Holy Spirit in healthy, pure bodies. And as we care for our bodies, our external "glory" will point to an even greater glory: God's.
Appropriate body-care also allows us to pay attention to ourselves, confident we're our healthiest, best selves so we can then forget about ourselves and be present to others.
In Psalm 45, the psalmist presents a king and his bride with an ode: "At Your right hand stands the queen in gold … " (v. 9, NASB). She, like the temple furnishings, is wrapped in gold.
But surely her husband's feelings reflect more than just appreciation for attire. The psalmist continues in verse 11: "The king is wild for you" (The Message). "Enthralled," reads the NIV.
That kind of love is enough to make someone feel beautiful.
A woman is beautiful not because of who she is (her looks or roles), but because of Whose she is. As we learn to live in the midst of God's "wild about us" love, we're transformed. We become fully alive and impossibly beautiful.
Our Past Doesn't Define Us
How we actually look is less important than how we think we look. But negative voices and experiences can sometimes shadow our perceptions. We enter a beautifying love relationship to God with memories that haunt us, taunt us, remind us how we're unlovable. A world's worth of cosmetics, exercise, and surgery can't camouflage a wounded spirit. So many women carry inner brokenness from living in a broken world, surrounded by people who love imperfectly. These women don't know they're lovely. Perhaps other people took advantage of them; perhaps their external beauty put them in dangerous places; perhaps their family members or husbands didn't respect, love, and honor them.
My friend Shireen is a curly-haired brunette with Bambi eyes and high spirits. But her father's incestuous advances during her childhood made her want to disappear—and disappear she did behind 100 extra pounds of weight. She wouldn't consider herself lovely now, even though she truly is.
In Psalm 45:10, the psalmist says to the bride, "Forget your people and your father's house." For Shireen to heal and become the beautiful woman God created her to be, she has to put the past in its place: the past. By beginning to recognize the cost of past—and present—pain, by learning to forgive the offender, by starting to seek restoration and support, healing works its way out in the form of loveliness. The apostle Peter calls this captivating, holy beauty "the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in" (1 Peter 3:4, The Message).
True beauty radiates outward from a heart of "gold" and wraps us in gold, reflecting not manufactured beauty but God's transforming love. As a result of that security, we see ourselves as beautiful and become more so—externally and internally—every day.
When I saw my friend Lynna years ago, I noticed family problems had drained the light from her face. She personified despondency, as though she were dying minute by minute. When I saw her recently, however, I barely recognized her. Her outward appearance—weight and hair color—was the same. But something inside her radiated beauty.
"You're glowing!" I said.
Her smile lit the room. "I've had some breakthroughs in counseling, and finally discovered how much Jesus loves me." That comment sounds trite—until you see her. She could run day spas out of business with that kind of testimonial.
She shone like the temple, like the king's bride who wore gold, like Job who said, "When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (23:10).
Women who know they're truly loved, become lovely. And being truly, perfectly loved comes indirectly through imperfect people—but directly from God.
Let God wrap you in gold today. Because that's what happens when you realize the King is wild about you.
Jane Rubietta, an author and speaker, lives in Illinois. She is author of Come Closer: A Call to Life, Love, and Breakfast on the Beach (WaterBrook).
Copyright © 2010 by the author or Christianity Today/Kyria.com.
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Wrapped in Gold
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