Unfading Beauty

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Sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s creation I just want to cry and thank him from the bottom of my heart for moments like these.

But they are moments. I am anxious to get out there with my camera because I know these sunny wild flowers will fade and die within a week or two.

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Other flowers will replace them later -the lupins, the daisies, the bright red salvia- and they will be just as beautiful. And they will also droop and fade and die.

In landscape photography much depends upon the season and the weather conditions and the time of day and angle of the sun. I think my desperation to get out there when the conditions are right, even though the timing may be inconvenient for other obligations, is about an awareness that life is fleeting.

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But temporary beauty is like a sign post that points to a greater, more permanent beauty that will not fade.

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I’ve been thinking about this verse:
But let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:4)

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I disliked it in my youth because of the way it and the surrounding verses were applied. The result was a rather oppressive less-than-lovely interpretation of freedom. Today I see something different. Some translations use the term incorruptible beauty, meaning beauty that is not subject to ugly decay like a corpse. Other translations say unfading loveliness or lasting beauty. All of them talk about a higher form of beauty -a gentle, quiet, peaceful spirit. “Not anxious or wrought up” in the Amplified version. Peace comes from within, but so does beauty.

I would not want to return to the type of sexual harassment I experienced in some of my first jobs, nor would I want to be embarrassed by the wolf whistles and remarks that came with walking past construction sites when I was 18, but like many woman I never realized how far my looks took me until I lost them. There’s that moment when you realize that being called a femme fatale is now more about your absent-mindedness behind the wheel of a car than your ability to be a lust-magnet. It’s actually kind of a sad day when attractive men confide in you about their romantic problems as if you have been neutered by “fading loveliness.”

Beauty is not the only currency. Many of my friends who are reaching retirement age have to face the realization that the currency that earned them a place of respect or usefulness in this world is not holding its former value. Surgeons lose their dexterity, musicians lose their hearing, and teachers lose their patience. Athletes and dancers face this reality sooner than actuarians, but eventually the time comes when we are replaced by those with brighter newer beauty, talent, or skill. We fight it. Man, how we fight it, but reality hits us square in the mirror eventually.

“Inward beauty” is not a euphemism for “nice personality” or “a great face for radio.” Inward beauty is more like the light that glows in a dark and dreary season. Inward beauty shines when a person knows they are deeply loved and cherished. The inwardly beautiful will not be plucked, stuffed in a vase, admired and tossed a few days later; they are at peace with God and themselves and can afford to love others gently and extravagantly because they know they have been forgiven much. Inward beauty does not fade or droop or shrivel or rot. It keeps growing through all the seasons of life because their intimate relationship with the Creator of such beauty grows on for eternity.

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We’ve only just begun.

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