On Oprah the other day, I saw a segment on “beauty around the world”. There were very unusual things in far away places that were considered “beautiful”. In one place, rings were placed on young girls necks beginning at five years of age. They increased the number of rings yearly to elongate the neck. The most beautiful in that culture looked giraffe-like. OK, that was weird. In another culture they made cuts that would turn into scars on their body…sounds painful. This was considered “attractive”. (I’m thinking more like ‘brave’) Anyway, the prize winner was a place where the very obese were exalted to star-like status. The women would even force-feed their young girls to expand their stomachs so they can become large. It was all pretty strange because we are so influenced by our own cultural mindset to gain a sense of what looks good and what is acceptable. (stomach-stetching, scars and giraffe-necks aren’t in our list of ideals). All cultures seem to “compare” to something/someone around them to define their beauty. Beauty truly is “in the eye of the beholder.”
This prompted my thinking about spiritual beauty. How do we know what is beautiful in Gods eyes? What should we look like? Do we do the same thing on a spiritual level that we do in the natural world? The logical thing is to look around us to find comparisons to make us feel good about our “spiritual looks”, but in reality we should be looking up and letting God define us and teach us what we should look like, smell like, live like…
In II Corinthians 10 we are warned about comparing ourselves among ourselves. You can see the scenario take place as the believers in Corinth get this letter from Paul. Obviously, Paul had heard about people criticising him because of his physical problems and “contemptable” speech. He first has to address the fact that this is not a way to judge spiritual maturity. I can see them discussing this letter among themselves when a child raises his hand with a question…”didn’t God use a boy instead of a soldier to kill that giant Goliath?” “Wasn’t it the unlikely onethat God used so many times?” GULP. Ok, this child has a point. We can’t know how God will use the weak, sick and lowly. We assume that God wants us “earthly polished”. It seems like God actually gets all the glory when so mysteriously the unexpected happens. I don’t know about you, but that is a huge encouragement to me. It is not because Paul was “all that” that God used him. Yet, so many people were drawn by the Spirit of God through this unusual man. God makes the usual unusual, the ordinary extra-ordinary, the sick healed and the broken whole. He adjusts the vision of the searching ones to see His way. We may feel boring and dark and He can make us salt and light to those who are searching. It’s Gods beauty they see.
It will always be easier for us to gain a sense of “having arrived” spiritually by comparing to something other than Gods perfection. No doubt humility can only come from a comparing to perfection. God knows how to s l o w l y and patiently let us see Him so we can grow and change into His likeness. It is a journey that isn’t orchestrated by our design or timetable. This makes sense. Our nature is to have everything NOW, and the only way to manufacture that sense of accomplishment in our spiritual journey is to compare to the wrong person…other failing mortals. We will get a false sense of “arriving” in our minds, but never in our heart and never to the ultimate judge.
So I am encouraged to know that these verses remind us of what a pitiful (unwise) person we become if we compare to each other for the purpose of self exaltation; and how beautiful and vibrant we can becomes to God when we let Him decide what is pleasing to Him. God wants to increase our faith in Him, not ourselves. We can boast all day long…on HIM and He, in turn, will make us beautiful to himself; beautiful to to the only one who really matters.