[Guest post from pastoral intern Drew Humphrey]
We live in a culture which is obsessed with beauty. Or so we’re told. Magazine covers, television commercials, health products, cosmetic procedures, clothing stores—everywhere we look, we see manifestations of this supposed obsession.
But I don’t buy it. I don’t think we’re nearly as obsessed as we think we are. In fact, I don’t think we’re nearly as obsessed as we should be.
Now I concede that our culture is hopelessly enamored by attractive people. And I concede that advertising techniques have revealed our collective weak spot for the sleek and seductive. And furthermore, I concede that our monetary spending habits disclose a startling propensity toward making ourselves exceptionally presentable. But the problem with these things isn’t that we’re too obsessed with beauty; the problem is that we’re not obsessed with beauty enough.
Having two young children in our home, my wife and I know all about obsession. When our 2-month-old daughter is hungry, there’s no chance in the world that she’ll be happy until she’s fed. You can sing to her, you can give her a pacifier, you can rock her in your arms—but until you give her food, your ears will be ringing with the shrill cries of a child who is obsessed with eating. And toddlers are no different. When our 19-month-old daughter wants juice, you don’t dare give her milk, and you certainly don’t dare give her water. She knows what she wants, and she’ll throw her desperate little body in front of the refrigerator door until she gets it (or gets disciplined!).
The point is simple: true obsession settles for nothing less than that which is ultimately desired. And because this is the nature of true obsession, our penchant for cheap glitz and glamour is evidence of the fact that we’re not nearly as obsessed with beauty as we should be. If we were obsessed with beauty, we wouldn’t settle for manufactured Hollywood imitations, nor would we allow our souls to be satisfied with anything less than the unrivaled, unending, unfathomable beauty of God himself.
King David was a man who knew this all too well. When he sinfully gazed upon the nakedness of Bathsheba, he fell victim to the same weakness which plagues you and me—he gave up his pursuit of true beauty in exchange for a cheap and easy substitute. Rather than desiring with unflinching devotion to “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” (Ps. 27:4), he chose instead to settle for the fading allure of that which was dust. His pursuit of beauty came up short.
We do the same thing, don’t we? We make daily decisions to settle for lousy imitations. As C.S. Lewis insightfully quipped, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The more we neglect to feast our souls upon the boundless and breathtaking beauty of our redeeming God, the more likely we are to be content with the deceptive glitter of worldly things. But when we set our affections upon God’s glory, we’re transformed by the beauty we encounter (2 Cor. 3:18).
Obsession with beauty isn’t our problem. Obsession with beauty is the answer.