Beholding Beauty | Fashionless Friday

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

For years those words haunted me: am I only beautiful if someone else considers me to be so? And, as someone who has never met our society’s conventional beauty standards, why couldn’t I just accept this fact — why was I so hung up about wanting someone to find me beautiful?

As a young teenager, I used to fantasize that there was a boy somewhere on this earth who would look at me — in all my skinny scrawny shapelessness, with my frizzy unruly hair, buck teeth, acne, freckles, and weird-looking bony knees and feet — and somehow find me beautiful. And, since I was fantasizing, I imagined him as a nice, sweet, wholesome, kind, sane boy rather than as a desperate, lunatic boy with low self-image and poor taste. Finally, that fantasy seemed too ridiculously improbable, even for me, so I began dreaming of a boy who would overlook my outward appearance and even my misfit personality, and would somehow manage to fall in love with a hidden inner beauty that hitherto no one — not even me — had ever managed to discern.

I was thinking about all that recently, as I had the enormous privilege to kneel — and I mean this as literally as possible — at someone’s beautiful feet. As I rubbed these dear, sweet, painful, elderly feet with soothing lotion, I thought of the verse, “How lovely are the feet of those who bring good news!” My mother has truly announced “good news of happiness” to many. Her feet are beyond beautiful.

All that has made me think, yet again, about my notions of beauty and my desire to be found beautiful. I’ve written about it before, about three and a half years ago.

That post was about, among other things, purposing to cling to “my other-worldly notions of beauty, and of what makes someone attractive to me”. I ended by stating:

After all, the thought of hearing the words “my good and faithful servant” means far more to me than even the most flattering words and opinions of mere mortals.

What does that have to do with beauty being in the eye of the beholder? I realized, as I knelt at my mother’s feet recently, that God has been changing my eyes — not my physical eyes, but the ways in which I see and appreciate beauty. There is so much more to loveliness than most of us can recognize, especially if our eyes and hearts have been trained by societal norms.

One of my favorite people to pray with has hands I find absolutely beautiful. She sees hands damaged by hard work and arthritis; I see hands that have served Jesus oh so very well, hands that have soothed the dying, hands that have brought me flowers she lovingly tended in her garden, hands that continue to bless everyone she touches. I see hands so beautiful that they have moved me to tears.

Back when I was that young teenager, facing constant mocking and bullying at school, desperately dreaming up fantasies of sweet boys who would find me beautiful rather than ugly, I began looking at myself through the wrong set of eyes. The people who truly loved me never considered me ugly — not even when my actions and attitudes were. It has taken me decades to be able to look at pictures of young teenage me and not feel embarrassment and humiliation… and self-loathing.

“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?” (‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭45:9‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Ouch. That’s what I was doing. I was telling my Creator that He did a lousy job when He knit me together in my mother’s womb. I was accusing Him of shoddy workmanship… just because some people, including myself, were looking at me through the wrong eyes.

Love sees beauty even when others don’t.

That’s the kind of eyes I want, so that I might be a beholder of beauty, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I want to have beauty in my eyes, so that I might see beauty wherever it is to be found.

Today’s news

Adapted from what I posted on Facebook:

I just heard the news.

No doubt some of my friends are feeling like dancing in the streets because their guy got confirmed to the Supreme Court.

No doubt some of my other friends are devastated, because this feels like yet another crushing, wounding blow to many sexual trauma survivors — especially to those of us who have to live daily with the fact that, although the horrors of our assaults are seared into our brains, we don’t remember details like dates, times, locations, and exact time lines.

Please don’t comment by arguing the merits or credibility of Dr. Ford. Not here. I was not there at any party she or Judge Kavanaugh attended, and I doubt that any readers of my blog were there either. But when you tell me how you think a sexual trauma survivor should be able to remember things, or how and when she should come forward, or how she should conduct herself, you run the risk of treading dangerously close — and maybe crossing the line — to criticizing and slandering me and people I hold dear… even if you don’t name us by name.

I excuse a lot of what people say because some people are ignorant and don’t know better. Heck, I used to believe a lot of the same sexual trauma myths myself. The lies and misinformation I’d been fed didn’t just hinder my healing, but damn near killed me. Literally.

But these past couple weeks, I’ve heard more dangerous nonsense about trauma than I can stand, and I’m fed up.

To all my sister and brother survivors out there: be gentle with yourselves. Remember, we were not and are not on trial, no matter how things may feel. If you haven’t done so yet, find your “tribe”; find your allies who will stand with you… compassionate people who will sit and weep with you if that’s what you need.

Take a break. This morning I went for a wonderful walk on the beach with two terrific women. Pet a dog. Hug a baby. Take a deep breath. Kick and punch the heck out of a heavy bag. Do yoga. Whatever works for you…

Seek out what is good and true and beautiful. It is still all around us.

I know who I am. It would be nice if the whole world agreed with me and recognized and supported me. But that will never happen. So today I took a walk on the beach, and prayed with some allies, and forgot all about politics for almost 3 hours, and remembered how good my life really is, thanks to the grace of God.

I want all survivors to experience that peace.