Pretty Pretty

Last Friday, T and I flew to Phoenix. It was exciting, and still is even now, because for a moment it felt like we could be that jet-setting couple who just goes places on a whim.

That's not us. But it was fun to pretend for a while.

Maybe I'm alone in this habit, but I have a tendency to notice the random actions of others, and for some reason or another, they hang on a bit in my mind before permanently leaving. As we were waiting for our plane to board, T was incessant about not just standing there with all the other cows waiting to herd onto the tiny plane. As we were wandering around I noticed a man walk behind the group and do the all-too-obvious head turn towards the behinds of two young, twenty-something blondes in yoga pants. I remember thinking two things, "Man, that was obvious", and "Those are the "pretty" girls--the ones who get looked at".

We got on the plane, mosey'd to our seats, and hunkered down. Within a few minutes I heard some cackling that drew my eyes upwards. Here came the two "pretty girls". As they got closer though, I noticed some feelings begin to surface and, lets just say, they could not be described as "pretty" themselves. 

I don't know that I'll ever understand the origin of this female practice, but somewhere along the way the message was extended that if we can talk loudly, sound dumb, and laugh a lot, then we will succeed at being desirable. 

Praise God for righting that wrong in me a long time ago.

I distinctly remember one of the girls being straight-up mean to her "friend". I think she might have even called her dumb right to her face, and to that the other girl gave a louder-than-necessary shriek-ish laugh and took her seat, because apparently, she was "taking too long". Again, I found myself wondering at another of our female behaviors--being mean. Why, oh why, do women believe that it's ok to be mean, snarky, rude and hurtful and then assume that laughing afterwards and saying things like, "just kidding, I love you" makes it all ok?

Ugh. I can't handle it.

Shortly after this little gem of an interaction I witnessed the young, tanned man sitting next to them jump at the offer of moving up to one of the empty seats towards the middle of the plane. "Mean girl" made some comment to the effect of, "what, you don't want to sit by us? Hahahahahaha" (cue head-thrown back and hands moving this way and that) to which he said, "oh, I just wanted to get a little more room."

Yeah, buddy. I get it.

I couldn't wait to get my ear-buds in and lose myself in Beauty and the Beast because one more minute of their loud conversation just might've made me lose it. That's the other thing... what's with thinking everyone wants to hear about the oh-so-trivial things of that party or that pair of yoga pants? Your conversation is your conversation, and I'm totally jazzed to not have to hear about it unless you are actually talking to me.

As I watched the movie, these girls kept lingering in my mind. I beautifully watched the Lord carry me through the previous events and share with me His opinion on the whole thing--at least as far as I am concerned. 

Laura, remember when you thought to yourself, "those are the pretty girls"? They don't seem that pretty once the contents of their hearts comes forth. Remember how I said that your beauty is found in the gentle and quiet spirit within you? This is what I meant. And this is what I gave you.

As I engaged in this dialogue with Pops, I found myself growing increasingly grateful for the kind of "pretty" He has made me. I remembered the girl I was--the one who was always looking for the head-turn. Who was always trying to be:

  • cool enough
  • funny enough
  • pretty enough
  • sexy enough
  • smart enough

It really all depended on the group that I was with, but there was an effort that could be put forth and you better believe I extended that effort. Anything to be accepted, right?

This call from God out of 1 Peter 3 is so often misinterpreted and it saddens me. If we read it in light of what we know of the character of God, there is a breath-taking invitation out of the hamster wheel and into a spacious and vast freedom to be the kind of pretty God made us to be. 

"Don’t focus on decorating your exterior by doing your hair or putting on fancy jewelry or wearing fashionable clothes;  let your adornment be what’s inside—the real you, the lasting beauty of a gracious and quiet spirit, in which God delights." -1 Peter 3:4-5 | the Voice

I (like most church-goers) always thought this meant that God didn't care about outer appearance and beauty. But that assumption is made from a heart that knows not the Creator God. All we need to do is open our eyes and see that He is a big fan of beauty. More than a fan, beautiful things were His idea, and so were we.

To create beauty one has to have beauty within them. He created in beauty, He thought up beauty, and He makes everything beautiful. In light of this fact, 1 Peter 3 actually gives a message a little more like this:

Be beautiful, for I made you that way. Know that your beauty catches eyes and hearts when it is all encompassing--when it originates in the depths of who I made. Your outward beauty will move and evolves throughout your days, and it will always be just that--beauty. The beautiful spirit that I set deep inside of you--that's the ticket.  The ticket straight to My heart, and to some of the ones I've placed around you, too. Daughter, I love to see your outsides, but goodness do I LOVE to see your insides. Remember that. Don't get too hung up on the lesser thing. 

With each mile travelled I found myself growing increasingly grateful for the kind of "pretty" God has made me to be. There will always be women that are more outwardly beautiful than I--that's a fact that I'm not striving to change because that isn't the way my story of life was written. What I love is that God gave me an invitation when I was 16 to change course and move towards something so much more valuable. 

And at 32 I think I might be starting to get what it's all about.

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That scum on the surface of the ocean--that's the stuff my enemy wants me to focus on. And I'll admit, it is quite distracting, in a literal sense (hello, nasty and questionable foam at the beach) and also in a figurative one (why do I have so much chub around the waist of this body that houses this heart that recklessly longs for adventure with God?) It just doesn't matter. There's a vast ocean to be enjoyed when we get past the foam, and there is a beautiful woman of God amidst the chub and all the other things.

I think maybe this is why He asks us not to worry about all the outside stuff. Because when we do we miss out. We think we'll be happier when we ______, but I think He knows something we don't. Maybe we will actually be happier when we tap into the things that make Him happy.

I think He's right. Obviously.

The tanned young man never came back to get chatty with the blonde girls. I couldn't wait to get off the plane and walk hand in hand with the man who says I'm the most beautiful woman in the world. And I walked into that day so grateful for the invitation that He has given me to understand this greater beauty that I get to carry with me to my dying day.

"This is how, long ago, holy women who put their hope in God made themselves beautiful" -1 Peter 3:6a

I think I like the idea of being known for the kind of beauty the holy women of the ages past were known for. I think that kind of beauty would make for a much more enjoyable and lasting legacy than the kind that comes with shredded abs and perfect skin and zero depth.

I'm just saying.

Today, I sit in joy-filled awe at the breathtakingly beautiful women that surround me in this life. They are kind, generous, loving, joyful, adventurous, wise, tender-hearted, bold and in love with Jesus. I love that their beauty spills over onto me and in that we become this radiance of the character of God.

It's pretty incredible and pretty beautiful.