Timing is everything, and three things happened in the last, rather difficult week that led me to connect the dots and realize afresh a truth I sorely needed.
First, my son Nathan shared a post on Facebook by Dove, the maker of beauty products, titled “Real Beauty Sketches” with the tagline, “You are more beautiful than you think!” They filmed an experiment which consisted of an artist rendering two versions of a woman’s face without seeing her. The first version was the result of a woman’s self-description; the second version came from another woman who tried to describe to the artist the first woman’s face. The second version was more accurate, with softer, more gentle features. The faces looked happier as well, more peaceful.
I love the fact that my son (he’s 26) posted this on his timeline. Men are so aware of how critically women perceive themselves. This bothers him, and it bothers me, too. Especially when I hear young people criticizing themselves. The older I get the more I see how absolutely beautiful youth itself is. The glow of young skin, the vitality and health that radiates with or without stunning features. It’s all in perspective – and wouldn’t my mom just love to hear me say that after all the complaining I did in my youth!
Second, Turner Classic Movies (the one channel I want on a deserted island – that happens to have cable!) had a snippet showing Sydney Guilaroff as he talked about dancing with Greta Garbo. Curiosity led me to Google, and I learned that Sydney was the man I’ve been looking for my entire life. And when you hear who he was, you may realize you’ve been looking for him, too. I must tell you, however, before you get your hopes up, that Sydney died in 1997. I’m a bit disappointed, though my chances of meeting him were nil.
Who was he? Oh, just the genius behind the “look” of all the Hollywood Stars. As in, Marilyn, Liz, Greta, Ava, Tyrone, Clark, Lucille, Claudette, Joan, Norma, Vivian, Hedy, Harlow, Marlene, Greer, and the list just doesn’t end. He had the gift of studying a person’s face and creating a look just for them or for their latest role. A snip here, a part there, a curl, a twist, a bang, a color, and the stars looked amazing and the world scrambled to recreate their looks. The best stars wouldn’t dream of doing a film without Sydney to do their hair and with good reason. He brought out their best. He made them unique. He saw the hidden and brought it out for all to see. He affirmed them. All this because he saw their potential. Ah yes, I’ve often wished to find a budding Sydney at a local salon that I could afford! (No offense to my amazing stylist, Heather, whom I love dearly!)
Third, I had lunch yesterday with a most delightful woman. She’s in her early eighties, and just as smart and vital as I recalled her to be twenty years ago. She sat down at her piano and magnificently played refrains of beloved hymns, hymns that are a healing balm over my tired, wounded soul. Her hands are extraordinary as they play; the notes resounded with depth and layers and joy and beauty that made my heavy heart simply fly as notes soared and dipped. But what made me weep was the beauty of this aging woman – still strong in her faith, still using her gifts and blessing me so richly with them.
You see, as I saw the beauty in her, as she put her hands on the keys and I felt the incredible beauty of her music, I realized anew that this is how God sees me when I use my humble gifts. As I saw the fullness of her faith in God and her love for Him as she played music more to Him than to me, I felt stronger in my faith. As I saw God using her at 83 to bless me and heal me, I felt affirmed in my desire to be useful to Him, too, despite my own weaknesses.
I walked away from our time together renewed, strengthened and encouraged in many, many ways, none of which she did intentionally. How she would have described herself and her actions and how I’ve described them would create two completely different pictures. Funny thing is, she told me that I significantly encouraged and blessed her – in ways I didn’t even realize. True story. I was floored. Two women, who God brought together, blessed each other at just the right time in just the right ways just by being who God has already created us to be.
And so I connect the dots…when I’m discouraged I become so much like the women in the Dove experiment, only I’m minimizing, critiquing and creating a distorted image of who I am on the inside. God – God! – has studied not just my face but my very heart and soul. He snips discouragement, parts my path from hurtful people, adds curls of encouragement just when I need them, twists that bad into good, adds some bangs and surprises, colors my vision with hope and faith and I realize I am affirmed and loved by my Creator. He placed that potential in me, He does all He can to bring it about, and all I need to do is be faithful to Him and to who He’s called me to be. As I do that, He brings about the healing and joy and relationships I need.
I thought I would pass this encouragement on to you, just in case you struggle with your inner image sometimes, too. You are so beautiful in His eyes! He studies your face, your heart, your hopes and your disappointments. He wants to heal you, too. He has placed potential in you and He alone knows how to bring it out more fully and more beautifully than you have ever dared to hope.
Who needs a marvelous hairstylist, or even Dove beauty products and their affirmation, when our very souls are crying out for affirmation? Only the One who created our souls can truly affirm us. And that is only done through the powerful work Jesus did on the cross, so that our souls can be cleansed from our sins and made beautiful, white as snow, righteous and lovely, complete in Him. And that is just the beginning of our transformation – for He who began a good work in you and in me will be faithful to complete it – which means He’s actively at work in us and through us always. The ultimate makeover is ongoing. Who you are is a beautiful work in progress! He looks at you and sees you with all that potential, and yet loves you just as you are today. Trust Him when He says He loves you so…..much!
One last thing – go bless someone with who you are – you may be exactly the encouragement they need today, because you are beautiful indeed!