Beauty and the Sacred

     The world loves beauty, doesn’t it?  Mention the word beauty and 9 out of 10 will focus on feminine beauty – the ideal female – as portrayed by what their culture dictates.  We have worldwide beauty pageants and flourishing modeling agencies that describe for us the meaning of beauty.  We have magazines that extoll the secrets to gaining that precious gift – and how to hold onto it longer.  We compare celebrities beauty, how well they wear their clothing, their capabilities of keeping their frames anorexically thin, how well they wear a bathing suit.  We have reality TV shows of  women entering weekly contests to win ongoing plastic surgeries, or extreme body makeovers.  Beginning younger and younger, we hear of parents entering their toddlers in pageants or getting their pre-teens cosmetic procedures.
And we want it NOW, with little inconvenience or wait time.  We see guarantees of 10 lb weight losses in a week, diet supplements without the need to alter your food intake or exercise.  Advertisements that claim the magical ability to wipe away cellulite and crows feet and age spots.  Plastic surgeons who cut away the unacceptable and sew in perfection.
I wish I could look at this ridiculousness and say that I’m far beyond its external clutches to those evil messages in my brain.  I’d like to say my eyes are open to the bullshit our culture feeds us about true beauty.  Yet there are still days that I frown at the mirror and scale, thinking I’m losing the game.
I was raised in a house that was big on competition and comparing.  Importance was placed on being polite and intelligent, but being a beauty as a daughter was a magnificent bonus.  Dad had stacks of Playboys in his nightstand, watched all the pageants on TV, and marveled over the pretty faces and dance costumes of the ice skating programs my mother routinely watched.  There was a silent message of beauty putting you one giant step ahead of the game when all else was equal.
In a community of well-to-do professionals, wives that often don’t work, there’s also a message that states you’re nothing if you’re not still in shape with a pretty, unweathered face.  Maybe it’s a sign of success that your wife is the sought after “trophy wife”; as we age, there’s an unspoken message to keep it together or be replaced by a younger model.
But somewhere inside, someplace deep, deep inside, there’s a voice that says beauty is so much more than that which draws fleeting attention and competitve snarls.  It’s in the yawn of a puppy, or the tears of a proud parent, the glisten of sun on fresh fallen snow, or the struggle of a paraplegic to stand.  Beauty is found within the wabi sabi imperfection of changes in parental relationships, the full moon that shines bright over your driveway and within your son’s dorm window, and the jittery bravery of unveilng your secrets despite unsupportive opinion.  Beauty is deep, it’s emotional and courageous.  It fights cultural norms and standards, accepts the unacceptable and forgives the unforgivable.  Beauty is deep and enduring love, beyond all that sappy romantic stuff.
Last year, I likened my spiritual journey to chasing butterflies, following where I’m lead.  A new perspective on that has emerged in reading “When the Heart Waits”, by Sue Monk Kidd.  She suggests that our true beauty that God intended, our core butterfly, if you will, cannot emerge without time in silence, reflection and waiting within our cocoon.  That we can’t rush this process of growth, awakening, and understanding.  It strikes home for me, often feeling that I’ve unpeeled the onion, come to an inner core – I’m ready to fly!  Shekinah, my God within, let me spread my wings!  I’m ready!  I feel that colorful beauty both inside and out.
Then a day passes where I’m begrudging the carbs I ate, the cosmetic eye surgery that might help my weary-eyed look, the stable needle on my scale, and I know, I need to wait within my cocoon longer.  Continue learning, reading, contemplating, writing, painting, seeing the beauty within all that surrounds me in order to fully embrace Shekinah within this awaiting butterfly.
So I wait, trusting in a sacred, beautiful WOW to emerge.