I am transfixed by a (hitherto) private experience of the beauty of ordinary people. Admittedly, this doesn’t happen all the time and everywhere. The experience is most strongly felt when I am at church, probably because there I have the Lord’s gift of leisure on a day of rest. When I walk the halls, I want to tell almost everyone I see what a pleasure they bring me, but I feel I can’t. Expressing this here is the first step for me of indulging the urge to expound on what I see and admire in them.
By way of preface, I am without apology biased in my appraisal of human beauty: I am thoroughly enamoured with the Christian account of life and what it says it means to flourish. This is in evidence when I see the lurid signs advertising (retch) “gentlemen’s clubs”. What the world says is the very epitome of beauty is more like beauty having fallen off of a motorcycle moving at 80 miles per hour, which, I say, should incline us more toward pity than desire. The aggressively made up woman whose posture or look says “Yes….” or “Come here, you…” is actually saying “Yes, I have to do this to make a living” and “Come here, you, and see how much pretended interest your money can buy”. Human beings are fulfilled by communion, not consumption: this sort of interaction has more to do with cannibalism than with real sexuality.
On the other hand, I believe that there must be an appropriate appreciation of sexual beauty. That is not at all the same thing as winking at immodesty or sexual sin, but a joyous echo of the Maker’s “Good and very good”. The first thing to shout from the rooftops is that a woman who is obviously pregnant is a pleasure to behold: fertility is a blessing and a baby-swollen belly is heavy with glory. Any ideal of beauty that denies this is simply blind. Equally beautiful is a man whose finger is held by a toddler as it walks beside him. These vignettes of youth are sweet, but also beautiful is the older man or woman who carefully leads about a spouse with dementia, showing steadfast love in their darkened days. All these are sexual because they follow the grain of male and female and they are beautiful because they are good.
There is also a beauty in weariness if that weariness is incurred from love shown to others. The older mother whose every expression is shadowed with care for an errant child, the security guard whose service involves diligence through tedium much more than heroics in crisis. Gratitude colors such sights and makes them beautiful to us because we know each contributes significantly to our quality of life.
Lastly for now, there is beauty in age, whether it be little or great. Youth is obviously pretty, but there is a storied beauty in the visage of an older man or woman. As the scriptures say, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Modern culture tends to despise advanced age, probably because difficult questions then become increasingly hard to avoid. In the body of Christ, however, it can be a time to take satisfaction in the work of God. In this way, old age is a marvelous picture of beautiful salvation.
Now, tell me: do you see it, too?