Is Truth REALLY Beauty?
I was listening to music the other day while simultaneously attempting to make dinner, wash some dishes, and keep the kids on task with cleaning up the living room, and heard the tail end of an ad that said this: "To find beauty, you must begin with truth." I am not entirely sure what the ad was for- I think, makeup- but, that phrase jumped out at me with glaring poignancy. As I was mulling this phrase over in my head later, I also thought of the line from John Keats' poem, "Ode to a Grecian Urn". The lines are these:
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
When I looked the poem up later on my phone, a website popped up called, "Truth Is Beauty". I opened up the website and noted the site provides women with a color and style analysis to be able to determine what colors and styles will accentuate their beauty best. I scrolled down the first page and saw this promotion: "To look your most beautiful, you don't need to color your hair. You don't need to wear expensive makeup or expensive clothes. You only need to identify the colors and lines that harmonize perfectly with the colors and lines that are already present in your body."
In all discussions on beauty, most people would agree that beauty is subject to opinion. What colors I find beautiful differs from what colors my mom or my sister-in-law think are beautiful or "our favorites". What hairstyles we like or clothes we prefer or makeup we wear is all subject to our own tastes, and largely, if I am being honest, on what others say "looks good" on us.
So, is that subjectivity actually truth? And, if so, does that mean it's really beauty? But, what happens if one person says I look great in yellow and another person says it looks terrible? Or what if one person tells me my hair looks better long when I know my husband prefers it short? Or....? This list could go on and on and on.
But, is beauty really based on appearances? Because if you consider what the website was promoting, their ideas of beauty were based off the individuals present body. Still, an outward dependency. And, does how I look on the outside really indicate beauty? And, if so, does that mean if someone doesn't find me beautiful that they are not believing what is true?
When you put it that way, it almost makes me laugh with the absurdity of it. Why? Because everyone's opinion of someone who is pretty or beautiful is completely and totally based in personal opinion. I have commented before to my husband about "so-and-so", and isn't she so pretty?" or, "isn't her haircut so cute?" And, if you know my husband, he is pretty opinionated, and I always find myself a little shocked or surprised when he shrugs his shoulders and says, "I guess so." Or, "Meh. It looks fine." Or, "I'm not really a fan of that style or that type of jean or that type of shirt."
In my opinion, "so-and-so" is the epitome of style and fashion and beauty. But to him, not at all.
If you read discussions on John Keats' enigmatic phrase about truth and beauty, you will discover people have all kinds of controversy about what he "actually meant".
If we think about this from a Biblical perspective, we discover truth is beautiful. But, the truth can't become beautiful to you until you actually believe it. And, what exactly is the truth?
The truth is I was made in God's image. Everyone was. And, if you think about the diversity of people and how each one is different, yet we are all made in God's image, it's quite a startling and overwhelming prospect in determining what "God's image" really is.
But, even further, if you look through Scripture, God rarely promotes for us the importance of physical beauty. Sure, we see instances where a certain person was considered very attractive (think Saul, David, Joseph, Esther), yet, even in those instances, the individual's physical beauty is not the clinching factor of their purpose in Scripture.
And, it's not the clinching factor for our life's purpose either. So, what is the truth, then? And, how can I be considered truthfully beautiful?
In John 8, Jesus declares, "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." And, what is truth? He is truth (John 14:6). His word is truth. So, in this, if I know Jesus, then I know truth. And, that truth tells me beauty is something altogether different. Beauty is not outward. Beauty is inward. Beauty is a reflection of not me or my "body lines" or my "natural look", but in Christ. In becoming like him. In reflecting the nature of his heart and life. In II Corinthians, Paul talks about how before we know of the truth found in Christ our hearts are hardened. There's a veil over our eyes that hinders our vision. Our vision of our life's purpose, our relationship to God, and to others. This specifically refers to the law of Moses and how many people rejected the idea that Jesus was the Messiah, clinging to the law instead of opening their eyes to the truth.
This is the same in our world. We flounder to determine our life's purpose, our goals, our success, our acceptance, our beauty- only to have that purpose or goal change with every passing whim or opinion.
But, what we find in Christ is this: "But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. And, we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (II Corinthians 3:16-18)
What does this mean? Essentially, when we believe Christ is the truth, that the way of salvation is found only in him, the veil of deceit, of sin, of bondage is lifted, and in that acceptance of Christ, who is truth, we find freedom. Freedom from sin and death, yes, but also freedom of mind, heart, and life. For in finding Christ, we find the answer to every desire. In Christ, every lie about "what we should look like" is abolished. Because in Christ, we are free. Free from the lies that we have to look like "so-and-so". Free from the lie that beauty is found in our body. Free from the lie that truth is found in how we look or in how people perceive us.
We are free from this because Christ has made us free from the bondage to these lies. Rather, we live for the truth that we are being transformed into the glory of the Lord.
What does this look like? I don't know, exactly. I won't know the full extent of the glory of the Lord until heaven. But, in Scripture I find pictures and glimpses of what it looks like to reflect that glory, and none of them have anything to do with my appearance.
Instead, they reflect Christ. And, in Christ, they reflect the Father. And, the Spirit is the one who teaches me what that change looks like in my daily life.
I am finishing a study on II Peter, and in the first chapter of II Peter, Peter gives us a whole list of what the nature of the Godhead looks like, namely: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, love. And, he says, if these things are increasing in our lives, then we are getting close to what Jesus looks like. He never says we will actually obtain the fullest extent of these qualities. Instead, he gives us warnings to avoid listening to or believing any bits and pieces of what appears to be truth, yet actually distracts us from the grace and glory of our God. In his last phrase to the believers, he writes, "But grow in the grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (II Peter 3:18)
This beauty is a continual process. And, this beauty will be fully known and felt and experienced in heaven. So, this is my anticipation. Not in temporal re-creation of beauty, but in the eternal graces of the Spirit of God, which are most precious and most beautiful.
So, is truth beauty and beauty truth? Only if the truth and beauty are found in Christ. And, on this sin-cursed earth, that beauty will not be fully known until that day of final, full, all-encompassing glory when we see truth face to face. This is what is worthy. What is beauty. What is truth.
Christ. And, knowing him. And becoming like him. In anticipation of that final, glorious anticipation where he will reign as king. When all will see him who is truth for who he is: The King of kings and Lord of lords.
This doesn't mean we ignore our physical appearance, of course. But, what this does mean is our goals, expectations, and anticipations are different. Different because the veil has been lifted. We are free. Our eyes are opened. Opened to what life can be and should be in Christ! And, as we being to plumb the depths of who Christ is the allure of this world's ever-shifting beauty fades and becomes less and less appealing and necessary.
So, let's re-set the focus. Re-set our terms of beauty. Re-set our anticipations and expectations. Re-set our adorations and our praise.
Not on temporal, physical beauty, but on Christ. On who he is and who he will be for all eternity. And, who we are because of him! Because it's not about me and never will be. It only has been and ever will be about him. And, living this way makes me totally, completely, truthfully, beautifully free.
Songs for Meditation: