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Beauty Secrets of the BibleThe Ancient Arts of Beauty & Fragrance
By Ginger Garrett
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Ginger Garrett
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTwenty-Eight Days of Cleansing
The first step of any beauty regimen is cleansing. Interestingly, it is also the first step in approaching God. Jewish priests at the temple had to begin with ceremonial washing before they could attend to their calling, just as Christ's sacrifice washes His believers so that they can be presented to God as without stain or spot.
Beauty, both physical and spiritual, is a profound and often troubling concept. To discover what it really means, we need to begin by washing away what is not of our authentic selves—the pollution and dead layers of anxiety, fear, and loneliness. We must bring to the surface of our souls what we truly feel and think about beauty, so that our minds and hearts can at last be at peace with our spirits and discover a more meaningful path than the one presented to us by society.
We'll begin the journey to the heart of true beauty with a cleansing. For twenty-eight days, you are encouraged to read one meditation a day and to reflect on it. You may read the meditations one by one before going on to begin the book, or read the meditations in between readings from the book.
Day One: The First Secret
And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.... —Psalm 90:17
The first beauty secret of the Bible is that it's not only okay to believe yourself to be beautiful, but that belief—that you are beautiful—is actually part of your spiritual life. Beauty is an expression of spiritual creativity. Beauty originates with God. It is a definition of God and a focal point of our praise. And while many women worship God and have an intimate, thriving relationship with Him, only 2 percent of women consider themselves beautiful. Where is the disconnect in our culture? Where is the disconnect within you and me?
The world believes beauty is an external varnish and a temporary condition. But in reality, beauty is woven into our being; it is not created every morning in front of the mirror. Beauty is our spiritual birthright.
Beauty is not about what we're presenting—a finished product to be judged—but what we're expressing. Beauty communicates the state of our spirit. It is the language of the spiritual world. The standards of earthly beauty change through time and culture, but the pursuit of beauty is universal and timeless.
Again, I'm not simply talking about "billboard beauty." That's a manipulated image of beauty, an oppressive, silent indictment of the majority of women who don't measure up. What we'll be talking about in this book is the creative, healthy, outward manifestation of a beautiful life within, the spirit of God who dwells in us. We are women who are deeply loved and beautiful by His touch.
Ask: God, what does "beauty" mean to me, and why do I desire it?
Believe: I am beautiful by His touch.
Day Two: Acknowledging the Wound
... He made us accepted in the Beloved. —Ephesians 1:6
At the heart of every woman afraid to call herself beautiful is a woman who has been wounded. Avoiding beauty, or refusing to pursue it, is self-protection. In our hearts we believe we'll never be good enough, that we'll never be accepted. Our efforts are half-hearted. For years, my only goal was to avoid humiliation. I didn't want to feel the pain of my childhood, when I was called a monster and bullied into believing I was, and forever would be, ugly. I was not accepted. How could I ever call myself beautiful?
In those childhood years, I read a fairy tale about a mermaid girl who longed to be beautiful. Her mother clipped shells on her tail, and as the girl cried out, her mother reminded her that beauty must hurt. Today I see that is a true statement for so many of us. Beauty does hurt, but for a different reason: it hurts to open ourselves again to disappointment and rejection. Acknowledging our desire for beauty can reopen wounds we've fought to close. We wanted silence to heal us and avoidance to make us forget. But the little girl who longed to be beautiful, to be accepted, is still inside. What are we to do with her?
In Luke 18:16, Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God." Are you willing to bring the little girl inside you to Jesus? He will accept her just as she is. He will protect her and give her the courage to believe again. To allow her to believe again in love and beauty, and in a God who will always call her Beautiful.
Ask: God, heal my wounds.
Believe: In Jesus I'm healed and unconditionally accepted.
Day Three: Fear of the Divine
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.... As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love." —John 15:4, 9
Dr. Hema Sundaram, dermatologist, cosmetic surgeon, and author of Face Value: The Truth About Beauty—and a Guilt-Free Guide to Finding It, told me that, many times, women fear "divine retribution" if they seek to alter or improve their appearance. "They may feel guilt or shame, and project this onto God," she said.
We have strong emotional reactions to the subject of beauty and the possibility of altering our appearance in any way. Some of us insist that anything is acceptable as long as it makes us feel good. Others insist God intended for us to be all-natural—no makeup, no surgery, no elaborate clothes or jewelry. This fierce emotional reaction is evidence that our beauty is close to the marrow of our souls.
Women are afraid of losing love: we're afraid God will reject us if we overvalue our appearance, and we're afraid others will reject us if we don't value it enough. But Jesus reassures us that our lives are rooted in His love for us. It is this love that is the source of all good things in our lives, including true beauty. As we root deeply into the Source of life and love, beauty will be a natural by-product of our efforts. Worry lines will soften. We'll stop turning to the refrigerator for comfort so often. Our faces will have a soft glow of contentment and peace that is more alluring than any cosmetic.
Any desire of our hearts—even the desire to be physically beautiful—is an invitation for God to reveal Himself to us. By bringing this desire to God, we are moving beauty out of the shadows and into the light. We can trust that God will teach us in this journey to root deeply down into His love.
Ask: God, reveal to me the true source of beauty.
Believe: God is using my desire for beauty to teach me about His constant, unconditional love and affection.
Day Four: A Divine Undertaking
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. —PROVERBS 3:5–6
Rabbi Efraim Davidson of the DoJewish Campaign of Atlanta spoke with me about the legacy of beauty and faith. "When the Jews were enslaved in Egypt," he explained, "the men were humiliated all day long, degraded. The women took special care to make themselves look beautiful, so that when their husbands came home, they felt respected. It made them feel human again." Beauty was not about how the women judged themselves, but the effect it had on those around them. It reached the men's souls where words could not.
"Later," Rabbi Davidson tells us, "when the Jews were freed from their slavery, the women gave their mirrors to be used in constructing the tabernacle." Beauty had been a sacred service that honored God. Beauty was indeed a part of their worship, a way to honor God in their physical lives, and a winsome reminder that our earthly lives can be given in sacred service in many ways. You can reach for God, even in this distinctly feminine preoccupation, and confidently expect Him to take hold of you and lead you into a safe and honored place.
As we talk about beauty in this book, let go of all your preconceived notions about what beauty is and is not. "Lean not on your own understanding," but ask God to reveal Himself in everything.
Ask: God, help me to let go of my own answers and seek Yours instead.
Believe: God will use the questions of beauty to bless my life richly, in ways I cannot imagine yet.
Day Five: The Quiet Captives
"The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness...." —Matthew 6:22–23
Our eyes bring either light or darkness into the body. Jesus spoke these words to introduce the idea that we reside either in the darkness or in the light, depending on our vision. A woman with a vision of God lives in the light. A woman focused only on herself only lives in darkness. Jesus used eyes as a metaphor for our spiritual lives: eyes are an entry point that affects the whole being.
Jesus also taught, in Matthew 5:29, that what our eyes focus on can affect our spirit and lead us into sin. Our physical eyes can be described as spiritually neutral, but Jesus warns us they are incredibly powerful, for they are capable of affecting our inner life. Haven't you experienced seeing an image that permeates your thinking and continually pops into your mind, unwanted? Do you find yourself wishing you had never seen it, but that now it is a part of you? Jesus uses our eyes to teach us that our souls and spirits are captive to our physical lives and habits.
We are spirits, and souls, living within bodies. What affects one affects all three. Only death can separate the three. (The traditional interpretation of spirit versus soul is that spirit refers to our immortal beings and the soul to our earthly intellect and emotions.)
Beauty is a physical manifestation of the spirit and soul, and the spirit and soul are held captive by our physical choices. Therefore, the greatest of care should be given to how we care for ourselves, and why. We understand beauty as a metaphor for God and honor it as such, but we also acknowledge that the act of creating physical beauty can have a spiritual impact as well.
Ask: God, show me where I am making unwise choices in my life.
Believe: Others see the outward radiance of my inner life.
Day Six: The Attraction
[The Beloved speaks:] "Like a lily among thorns, So is my love among the daughters." [The Bride replies:] "Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, So is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.... Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death...." —Song of Solomon 2:2–3, 8:6
Beauty serves a practical purpose in a divine world: beauty attracts us.
In a crowded room, we gravitate toward what attracts us. In a crowded world, there is no neutrality; we move toward beauty. All of the natural world operates on this principle. Beautiful colors attract bees and birds to flowers. Humans instinctively turn toward the sunrise and sunset and inhale quietly as we mark another passage of time by the beauty of the skies. Beauty orients us in the world, pulls us in, and pushes us to search for what has been lost. We want to surround ourselves with it, lavish in it, and soothe our frazzled nerves by it.
But beauty only begins the foundational work of love. A single stone is not a building but a beginning. It can offer no shelter, no warmth, no rest. Likewise, beauty can only offer itself to be built upon. What we build on it—deep, lasting love—is a force as strong as death itself.
Beauty attracts us, but it is the love we build on it that makes us truly beautiful in another's eyes. Physical beauty is a lovely spark that catches the eye but disappears in a moment's breath. It is love that catches the spark and feeds it, fans it, until it glows and burns, creating a steady fire that lights a new generation.
Ask: God, show me how to build love in my life.
Believe: Love makes me incredibly beautiful, and God promises I am incredibly loved.
Day Seven: Entwined
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the LORD, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. —2 Corinthians 3:18
Beauty is entwined with love. Both herald the eternal. As we experience love, we are transformed, tasting the eternal. Think of a first true love, or the first moment you held your baby in your arms. The beauty of your loved one was overwhelming to you, immeasurable. The outside world meant nothing in that moment. Cynicism was dead.
It's no coincidence that at these moments in our lives, we turn to God. Engaged couples seek the blessing of a minister and brand-new parents reinvestigate forgotten faith. Love has made our beloved beautiful to us, and at that moment, we are open to believe in the eternal. Our hearts are opened to believe in God even if we've drifted away. Beauty calls us home.
Will you experience the beautiful today? Will you feel the sun on your arms and marvel at the theater of lights above you at night? Will you delight in the construction of a flower and know yourself to be a part of this same creation? Will you love someone from the depths of your heart and see God's beauty? Will you allow yourself to look in the mirror and see a woman made beautiful in love? Beauty and love are deeply entwined in this life and the next.
Ask: God, break through the cynicism and fear guarding my heart and let me know love and see beauty.
Believe: I am so deeply loved that I radiate beauty and attract others.
Day Eight: Beauty Lost
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then [in heaven] face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. —1 Corinthians 13:12
Today we see with clouded vision and long for a time when our eyes will be opened and paradise entered into again.
Our efforts to be beautiful will always be somewhat frustrated on earth. We will never reach a moment when we feel the completion of beauty and know ourselves to be finally, forever, beautiful. The longing we feel for beauty will always be kindled, just as a longing for rest is always with us. Beauty whets our appetite for its final fulfillment.
When you are frustrated with your appearance, remember it is not because your body or beauty lacks something. It is because the world lacks something. The quest for perfection isn't a vain desire but a shadow of a greater desire, the first desire—the desire to be unashamed before God and man, to reflect completely the love of the Creator as He beholds us.
Ask: Help me to gracefully accept this desire that will never be fully satisfied on earth.
Believe: Someday God's perfect beauty will be made complete in me.
Day Nine: Beauty's Mystery
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." —1 Samuel 16:7
Of all the women noted in Scripture as physically beautiful, can you tell me what any one of them looked like?
Excerpted from Beauty Secrets of the Bible by Ginger Garrett Copyright © 2007 by Ginger Garrett . Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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