study || true beauty || chapter 2

2.5 months later and we hit chapter 2! Wow, a bit shameful how long this has taken me, but here we are so let's power on.

Chapter 2: True Beauty and Our God

"refuse to accept our society's definition of beauty, or even the definitions that we ourselves may have worked with previously and decide that that which is truly beautiful is the character of God himself."  -- Wayne Grudem

Like Wayne Grudem says, our definition of beauty, I think, is based much more often by how we see ourselves standing up next to that which is considered beautiful in our world. We define our beauty by our size, our skin, hair, wardrobe. Instead, our beauty must be defined by the very same thing that every other area of our lives must be defined, our God. "In order to know what true beauty is, we must see God." (pg. 27) Beauty is not an area of life that is completely separate from everything else. The character of God and the calling on our lives to imitate His character is to influence and direct every piece of our lives, including our view and our understanding of beauty.

"Frankly, though, we're not always that interested in God's beauty, are we? It's great quiet time contemplation, but it can feel remote and disconnected from our body issues and our wardrobe fails, our hair troubles and our complexion flaws, our acne and our aging......Once we see God's beauty, we will never see beauty the same way again." (pg. 28)

The wonderful thing that this chapter so consistently reminds us of is that our God loves beauty! He Himself is the ultimate definition of beauty and He created us with a desire for beauty. And through Him we can be free from the constraints of the definition of beauty our world gives and feel such a weight lifted off when we realize we don't have to conform to "our culture's ever-changing and ever-more-tyrannical definition of beauty." (pg.26). We are beautiful because we have been made in the image of the beautiful God. Our issues come in when we allow the sin of the world and the sin of ourselves to redefine our understanding of beauty. We have to fight against this! 

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

We have to be transformed....."let's take deliberate steps to limit worldly influences on our taste for beauty." (pg. 35) Let's pursue the beauty of our God and in that learn to love and treasure beauty like His above all. "When we behold God's beauty, we become like him. The truly beautiful woman is the one who contemplates the beauty of God. As she worships him for his loveliness, power, holiness, and goodness, she is changed. By the power of the Holy Spirit, her life radiates the beauty of the gospel." (pg. 35) When we behold God's beauty, when we pursue God's beauty, our desire for beauty will began to be transformed and as we seek to care for our physical appearance the goal will be His glory in the end and not our own. "And the beautiful woman is deliberate to reflect the beauty of God in every aspect of her life, representing him in her appearance and her character. She consciously seeks to glorify God in her heart attitude, how she cares for her body, what she wears, and how she makes herself beautiful." (pg. 35)

I just treasured the beauty, forgive the pun, of this chapter. It is truly a beautiful chapter about beauty because it is about our God, our Savior, our definition of beauty! Because we have been made in His image we are beautiful and when we can say "I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" then we will know freedom from the bondage of a self-focused mirror. 

"But a vision of God's beauty changes how we dress and exercise and eat. God's beauty reshapes our shopping and showering and showing off. It upends and undoes all our preferences about what is pretty and what is not. A glimpse of God's beauty makes all the difference in what we see when we look in the mirror. Once we see God's beauty, we will never see beauty the same way again..........

True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God." (pg. 28)

I am loving this book, you guys. This chapter just hit my heart exactly as I needed it to. And I'm thankful for it.

What were your favorite portions of this chapter, lovelies? Oh, how I'm praying for each one of us that we will define our beauty through the lens of our Jesus and glorify His beauty just as it ought to be!

study || true beauty || chapter 1

Hi, darlings!

I am so excited to be starting this study with you all! I'm grateful for the accountability it gives, and most especially, for the encouragement that I know it will be. Thank you for joining me, lovelies; for being so eager to do this study with me and for your open and honest hearts. I'm so grateful!

Bear with me as I do this for the first time. It's a learning process and I'm thankful for ya'll's willingness to go along for the ride with me!

Chapter 1: True Beauty and Our Culture

I think I underlined/marked up over half of this first chapter! They just set such an excellent foundation for the book and for the whole picture of what, I think, is the basis for why we women struggle in this way; and the glorious thing is, we don't have to stay there!

I kind of broke up the chapter into 5 little "main points" (my OCD took over). 

The Struggle: " women our beauty struggles can range from subtle and nagging to life-dominating. But to one degree or another, the issue of beauty presses in on all of us." (pg.15)

There is no woman who does not/has not/will not face this struggle in life. We live in a fallen world and in a culture that is beauty obsessed! We are surrounded by it, we are constantly comparing ourselves, we fight this battle. There have been so many times since AK was born that I have wished so hard that I could protect her from ever facing this struggle and I hate that she sees me struggle with it. I have to realize though that this struggle with beauty is present and will continue to rear its ugly head, and rather than just be constantly wishing it would go away I have to "arm myself" to fight against it and seek to prepare my sweet Little to do the same. 

The (Unattainable) Worldly Standard: "...These images tell us what we are supposed to look like, and they present a standard of beauty so narrow in its ranger that most of us feel unattractive by comparison.......Not only do most of us lack the means to maintain our culture's ideal of beauty, in many cases the standard against which we are measuring ourselves isn't even real." (pgs. 15 & 16)

Yuck, yuck, yuckAnd our culture is feeding us this stuff constantly, even in commercials that are supposed to be "helpful" and offer "answers", the underlying theme is clear: "We must have a perfectly proportioned figure, exquisite facial features, flawless skin, and be free from defects or disabilities -- not to mention that we must be young, or at least retains a youthful, healthy appearance." (pgs. 15 & 16)

The Reality: "....women still chase this unattainable standard of beauty with fury.....Women believe that beauty is essential to a happy life." (pg. 17)

It's true. As disheartening and discouraging and hopeless as the struggle to attain the worldly standard is, we still fight to reach it! I find myself seeing pictures of women on instagram, for instance, and thinking, "see!? She reached it! I can't imagine that she would ever struggle with anything! She"S's perfect!" and that ignites in me the desire to plow towards that standard -- forgetting what I know is true and once again buying into the lie! I begin doing exactly what our society has done -- "taken physical beauty and made it a god." (pg. 18) I idolize it, I chase after it, firmly sure that I will fiiinnnaalllllyyyy have self-confidence and never, ever struggle again. 

The Enticement: "Physical beauty deceives us by appearing to keep some of its promises in the short term. It delivers just enough to keep us hooked, to lead us on in thinking that it is a worthwhile investment of all our hope, time, money, and energy." (pg. 20)

There will always be that enticement that we can gain that perfect image of physical beauty. By some cream, some diet, some lifestyle change, some wardrobe makeover, some....thing, we can hit that sweet spot. AND, the truth is, it may give us some temporary satisfaction or some extra boost of confidence, but it will not last......"it promises a lifetime of happiness that it cannot deliver." (pg. 20) That enticement always, always sounds so good, but is is fading. 

However, HOORAY, as good as that enticement sounds it doesn't hold a candle to the hope that we have in Jesus to be free from this struggle.

The Hope | The Confidence | The Example: "Scripture shows us what true beauty is and how to become truly beautiful. Above all, Scripture reveals our beautiful Savior, who had "no beauty that we should desire him" (Isa. 53:2) but who hung bloodied on a cross for the ugliest of our sins. The gospel of Jesus Christ really does redeem everything, including beauty. It really does reach into the heart of "if only I could get this taken care of" and takes care of it. Our beauty crisis is no match for the truth of God's Word." (pg. 23)  

I desire, so much, for my beauty crisis to be redeemed by the gospel. Up until this point I have band-aid-ed my struggle, not grasping or being honest with myself about the full reality of what I was struggling with, to what extent I was struggling with it, and what I was really believing in that struggle. And what a breath of fresh air the reminders of truth have been to my mind and heart as I've read this chapter! To be reminded that, "the Bible does not say physical beauty is bad or that it is sinful to make ourselves beautiful. Instead, it tells us how to make ourselves truly beautiful." (pg. 22). My beauty crisis has become an idol --- the thing that I want "fixed" has become what I am fixating on, and rather than combat that with truth I have given into the lies of the world I live in and begun believing that was truth. I just loved, in this chapter, that as I was so saddened at my own heart's tendency to echo the culture in this area, I was immediately encouraged and hopeful when I was reminded of what really is true! My Lord created me, He knows me, He knows my struggle, He loves me, and He desires to redeem this heart struggle and make me more like Himself. No better excitement than what comes on hearing that! 

What stood out to you in this chapter? Where have you bought into the lies of our culture? Do you feel like you've ever truly understood "true beauty"? What encouraged you the most? What challenged you the most? What are the quotes from this chapter that you want to write out and remember? Do you feel more hopeful after being reminded of the unfading truth of Scripture? And anything else you want to ask, share, or add! 

Let's start some conversation here, my friends! Share in the comments, read others comments, and we can chat back and forth! 

And, know, sweet friends, I will be praying for each one of you! It is a joy and a privilege to have you share with me and to walk alongside you. I truly count it a gift. 

"Only God's Word can promise a beauty as supernatural as it is satisfying, as attainable as it is lasting; a beauty that blesses and does not curse; a beauty that is precious, not worthless, that leads to happiness instead of heartache; a beauty that grows more becoming even as you become more beautiful."

"All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades.....but the word of our God will stand forever." Isaiah 40:6-8




study || true beauty


"As a pastor's wife, I have spoken to many women through the years about their trials and temptations with beauty. From these conversations and my own experiences, I know that as women our beauty struggles can range from subtle and nagging to life-dominating. But to one degree or another, the issue of beauty presses in on all of us." ~ Carolyn Mahaney, Chapter 1

I have come to an end, my friends. By God's grace and gentle prodding on my heart and mind, I have reached my end and said, "I am exhausted of this life-dominating struggle with beauty, Lord. I want it to end." There have been times in my life previously when I thought I had reached this point, when truly I hadn't. I put the band-aids over the struggle and moved on. I didn't see my struggle with the mirror, my struggle with wanting to change so much about myself as the prideful, idolatrous, selfish struggle with sin that it had become. I moved on, continuing to believe the lies the Devil poured into my mind, comparing myself to my friends and other women, never feeling freedom. The struggle continued to feel like one of those cartoons where the victim is tied up in a rope with an anvil at the other end and they are starting to sink further down in the water, unable to pull free.

How thankful I am that we have a loving Father who does not leave us to ourselves! He graciously unties the knots in the rope and helps us to have hope, to see that there can be freedom from the sin. That hope, for whatever struggle it may be, is so beautiful and comforting.

I have struggled with various things about myself, but the most difficult one has been my skin. I don't have great skin. It has been up and down since I was a teenager. Stress levels affect it, hormones, food to some extent, all those daily life things. It has been my "beauty nemesis" so to speak. I have tried different things to help it. I have considered going on different diets, switched facial skin products many times, etc. And while there is nothing wrong with seeking to care for myself well and be wise with what goes on my skin, etc, the desire to "fix" it has become an enormous idol in my life. To be honest, in my mind, I have thought that if I could just solve this one nagging struggle, I'd be nearly-almost-totally good with myself. The problem there is that I have left Jesus, and what He tells me about myself and beauty, completely out of the equation; and when I leave it there, I won't ever have lasting peace, even if I had the most flawless skin you could imagine. The depths of my heart have to be changed. I must understand the TRUTH about beauty and bring my thinking, my struggles, and my care for myself under that umbrella.

"The gospel of Jesus Christ really does redeem everything, including beauty. It really does reach into the heart of "if only I could get this taken care of" and takes care of it. Our beauty crisis is no match for the truth of God's Word." ~ Carolyn Mahaney, Chapter 1

When I read that sentence from Chapter 1 of True Beauty, my heart sang. As I said previously, the anthem of my life has been, for much too long, "if I could just solve this one nagging struggle, I'll be good." However, that actually wouldn't be the case. The beautiful hope, though, is that the gospel can solve this one nagging struggle......and every other one! In believing the truth about what God says about me and about beauty, I believe that my heart will be refreshed and even more joyful, and the lies of the Devil and the resulting struggles in front of the mirror will no longer hold weight over me.

So, my friends, I share all of this with you, for two reasons: 

1. My heart and desire behind this little online space of mine has always been that it be a place of real, honest, everyday, vulnerable heart and life sharing. I would cherish your prayers for me in this way, and I would love to pray for any of you in the same. Having each other to walk with, learn from, and share the bits and pieces of our heart with is one of the greatest gifts. 

2. I have been eager to read True Beauty and I would love if any of you would like to read it with me! My plan is that every other week I will do a little review about a chapter of the book and we can discuss it in the comments section, starting with Chapter 1 on July 1st. That way, if any of you would like to read along with me, this gives ya'll a couple of weeks before it takes off. I would truly love to have any of you share and study and discuss it with me! Here's a link to the book on Amazon. 

I'll share this last excerpt from Chapter 1 with you guys before I sign off.....

"But God's Word is not outdated or shortsighted. Scripture doesn't fail to answer our questions or address our struggles. The Bible actually has a surprising amount to say about beauty. For instance, Scripture tells us that God delights in beauty --- a theme we will return to throughout the book. The Bible does not say physical beauty is bad or that it is sinful to make ourselves beautiful. Instead, it tells us how to make ourselves truly beautiful." ~ Carolyn Mahaney, Chapter 1

I'm eager to learn with you all, lovelies, and to know freedom from our little nagging struggles to our big life-dominating ones, that the mirror no longer send us spiraling down into a pit of self-loathing or discouragement, and to truly find our worth in our sweet Savior and in His true and liberating definition of beauty.