“Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.” Genesis 29:17 NIV
Unusually, I wrote this piece before I had a Bible verse to illustrate it. Normally I start with the verse and let it speak to me. But maybe this was providence, for I could not find a single reference to a person describing him or her as unattractive, ugly or not beautiful. Isn’t that wonderful? There is a lot of sexism recorded in the scriptures, and yet women’s beauty is never doubted. Even here, where one sister is preferred over the other, weak eyesight is the worst thing that can be levelled at Leah. In our appearance obsessed society where women especially are taught to constantly find fault with the way we and others look, I found this refreshing.
Feeling unattractive is a horrible thing which can affect anyone, and an insecurity that billion pound industries rely on to feed their unrelenting pockets. If we feel unattractive, then we feel unwanted. We think that no-one will have us, will want to partner us in life, or that the partner we do have is just making do with us, as indeed was Leah’s pain, and we’ll come back to that another day. It feeds fears and jealousies and inadequacies that ruin lives and make us ill.
The world has become so intent on marketable outer beauty now that we tend to forget how to see other ways that people are good to look upon. Some people just shine, whether it is with gentle quietness or raucous laughter, with softness or sassiness, with joyful exuberance or calm delight, with graceful elegance or sweet stumbling clumsiness, there is no end to the ways that real beauty presents herself, regardless of gender.
A voice and how it sings, the way a lock of hair persistently falls over a forehead and will not be tied back, the mole at the side of the mouth, the crow’s feet that crinkle up with every grin. These are the things that endear us to people, their idiosyncrasies, their differences, not the things that we all have in common and certainly not some awful Stepford Spouse homogeny that insists on boring symmetry, flatness, paralysed muscles and careful lack of feeling. A face and a body are places to live out our character, our sex appeal, our true selves, the expression of who we are. Our integrity is what draws people to us. If we imagine that reaching for some marketed ideal of size, shape and smile is true attractiveness or true beauty, we are living and believing a lie.
True beauty is slightly off centre, a little skewed, a bit cracked, lived in, enjoyed. It takes up as much room as it wants to and it sashays or slinks or skips, depending on how it feels. It does not pander to the beholder, nor does it realise how wonderful it is. True beauty lives and moves and has its being in the Lord, in freedom, in being itself.
Photo from Pixabay