Beauty was suspect in the circles in which I grew up. The suspicion was anchored in Proverbs 31:30 which is its description of a virtuous women declares that “Beauty is vain…“ Somehow that became expanded to the encouragement of ignoring, even judging, human beauty when one encountered it. Mercifully I have discovered wider concentric circles of understanding, in writers like Belden Lane in his book, Ravished by Beauty, that my traditions of origin actually encouraged a love of the Beauty of God, in creation certainly, in worship always, and this Lent I am taking delight in the beauty of human beings!
Facebook has plenty of reasons to call for discernment about its use and its business dealings, but today I celebrate the beauty of the Faces that Facebook gives me. This week it has showed me the face of a saint, just gone home to glory, whom I loved for many years; there was the beauty of age, of wisdom, along with the whimsy and compassion that always lived in the lines of that familiar countenance. I delight in the face, even as I grieve.
I also was able to take great joy in the purely unformed face of a brand new baby, unfocused, vulnerable, with no thought for what is ahead, just trying to get comfortable in this brand new world. And Facebook shows me almost daily the beauty of my family–from their beginnings, through their growing into who they are becoming. My heart is full of joy and praise for the unique creature each one is–the eyes of the imp, the stature of the leader, the dance of the friend, the grace of the scholar, the look of concern of the openhearted, the laughing companionship of the friendly. Sometimes when in the presence of these beloved ones, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for who I see, that I have a part in each life, however great or small, and I take deep delight.
However, I do not need to rely on Facebook to delight in the faces of God’s creation. I sit with people each week, and I marvel at the uniqueness of each one. Recently I witnessed the animation in the face of one who was newly energized by a new word that came, and the whole face was transformed. I sat with one in deep sorrow, and through the tears and wordlessness, there was a poignant beauty that was fully human and hope-filled. Another face was a study in hope fulfilled, as when there seemed not to be a way forward, a way opened up.
The variety is infinite! I have new neighbors, from a faraway land. The beauty takes such a different shape than my round blue-eyed blonds. But what dimensions of beauty are revealed. I meet an old friend, and the beauty that is theirs has taken a new shape–less spry, more white hair (or less hair!), but wisdom is now embedded in gaze and in expression and demeanor! How lovely!
I become more and more appreciative of visual artists like Charles White, who in his artistry help me see beauty in those who suffer, in those who take risks, in those who struggle, in those who are faithful over a long road. I am invited to take delight in the creature that each one was made to be, and am challenged to let my delight morph into acting for justice for those to whom it is denied!
Taking delight in the faces of those who are made in the image of God–that is my practice this week, and that is my challenge! God, be in my eyes and in my seeing!