When I was young, I always loved the story of sleeping beauty. A dazzling young maiden who was waiting for a prince to awaken her to love and happiness- well, actually I just liked the idea of riding on a pretty horse, wearing puffy princess dresses and getting to look like my older cousins, who were gorgeous. There is something about this faery story that rings true to all girls, but I'll save that for later!
Another of my favorite childhood (and even now) stories is Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. Being fond of art as I am, I was attracted to this story because of the lovely pictures of the seaside and the lupines. In this story, Aunt Alice wants to do three things with her life and one of them is making the world a more beautiful place. To do that, she plants lupines all around her small corner of the world- and indeed the colorful, vibrant flowers add grace and charm to the already sparkling ocean town. This story also has some truth to it, to be explained later.
I've always enjoyed The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson. There's just something encouraging about a little, ugly gosling who goes through a lot being gawked at, whispered about and loneliness only to grow into a beautiful, elegant swan who is the prettiest of all. I guess I must have always hoped that it would be me someday. This is another story that has some truth in it.
I once happened upon a quote that read: "Beauty may be skin deep, but ugly goes straight to the bone!" Obviously that isn't referring to physical appearance, but character. Great quote! I'm surrounded by lovely, gorgeous young ladies. You take one look at them and you think, wow, aren't they blessed! They shine and glow with something that many girls their age don't have. It is a pure kind of beauty.
The Sleeping Beauty is like this pure beauty that my young sisters in Christ have. You see, they haven't been awakened to love yet. They are waiting. Waiting for God to send them their prince to awaken them with the kiss of true love. At the same time, they have already been roused to the Truest Love and have met the Prince who alone could make them beautiful. They know that the Prince came to rescue them and will one day bring them to His Kingdom and so they are forever grateful and the loveliness they have comes from this gratefulness.
As with the ugly duckling, their sin-stained homeliness was taken away by Christ and He is molding them into something completely different. They are all striving to become more like Him in character and by doing so, they radiate with an elegance that only those who are touched by Him can. It's a wonderful thing to behold the fingerprints of the Master on the lives of these young, fair maidens.
Like Miss Rumphius, my sisters are spreading beauty around the world- the beauty of the gospel of Christ. With their words, actions, characters and desire to serve they speak volumes of what true comeliness is. They touch the lives of those around them in ways that they don't even know. They don't do it in sparkling dresses or with airs of self-importance. They do these things to please God and to bless the people He has created. Some of them are encouragers- they say things to build others up. Others are good listeners, lending a soft and loving shoulder to cry on. Many of them sacrifice their time and their desires to help others- whether it be watching children, painting, cleaning, building things, baking food or making tons of phone calls for their father. A few of these ladies have packed up everything and journeyed to a different state, where they new hardly anyone, leaving the past 16 to 19 years of their lives behind. And they did this willingly. These are the things that show true beauty- a care for others' well-being and happiness above regard for themselves. This is Jesus' way.
Being the plain Jane that I am, there are times when I wish I had the physical beauty, the allure and the charm that is put on a pedestal by our world. I am then reminded that, while that kind of loveliness is part of what God created, it is not the beauty He desires most.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
~ Proverbs 31:30
Do not let your adornment be merely outward-arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel- rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
~ 1 Peter 3:3-4
I don't think that these verses are condoning the neglect of appearance. We are to always remember that we are representing our Heavenly Father in the way we dress and arrange our hair, so I don't think a slovenly look would be very pleasing to the King of Kings (unless we had no other cloths or no way to comb our hair). There is a verse in the Psalms that talks of the daughters of God's people as being polished pillars, fashioned after the style of a palace. This verse is just reminding us not to spend too much time on our appearance. After all, it will only last a short time, but the good works we do with humility in the name of Jesus will have eternal effects! Doesn't that thought encourage you?
So, if you're feeling unstunning or unsightly, thank the Lord for the beauty He can give you and then get up and serve someone! And a woman who doesn't indulge in self-pity, but exercises self-sacrifice is truly a lovely thing to behold!