"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV
We have all seen her—maybe even been her—the woman who pulls up to the stoplight at 7:20 a.m. with kids fighting in the back of the minivan, stuffing a bagel into her mouth with one hand while craning into the rearview mirror trying to apply eyeliner with the other.
The struggle for beauty is real. Even in the chaos of life when relationships feel strained, finances stretched, and waistbands tight, we sometimes still make time to apply eyeliner at a stoplight. Why? Maybe it’s because we are hardwired to long for beauty, whether it’s in us or in our surroundings. Maybe because the God who created us in His image loves beauty and has built it into His creation and into our souls. Maybe because encountering real beauty makes us long for God, for heaven, and for the people we will forever be.
Our problem is that sometimes we misunderstand what true beauty looks like. We believe it is cosmetic when in fact it is deep peace, harmony, and joy. We settle for things that mask and rouge when what our souls really need is to remember.
THE GREAT FORGETTING
We can all suffer from a case of spiritual amnesia, a casual forgetting that enters like a fog between our hectic daily lives and the clear remembering of who God is. It is, as the old King James Version says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, like seeing “through a glass, darkly.” The phrase sounds odd until you realize that in the first century most women didn’t own a mirror. Instead, they might catch their reflection in the bottom of a well or at the edge of a pool. Only wealthy women owned house mirrors made from polished metal. Yet no matter how brilliantly even those mirrors were polished, there was still a metallic distortion between the woman’s face and her reflection. Rich or poor, homely or fair, first-century women could never see their perfect reflection.
The world is like that. It is a dim reflection of what God created it to be, an echo of the past, a blurred image at the bottom of a well, a distorted version of paradise. And we, as citizens of both heaven and earth, struggle to keep a clear picture of what God intended, confused by the brokenness around us and our own distracted lives. This world, we understand, is not as it was meant to be. Something has gone terribly wrong. Something beautiful has been vandalized.
BEAUTY AS REMEMBERING
Because of the brokenness of this world, the hardest part of the Christian life is to remember God. To remember that He is good, and that He is good to us. Remembering God in the Bible often means reflecting on His true beauty—His goodness, kindness, and mighty works on behalf of His people (1 Chronicles 16:12; Psalm 63:6; Psalm 111:4).
Studying beauty gives us a clearer ability to remember who God is and how to live faithfully in this beautiful world in which so much has gone terribly wrong. By learning to recognize the beauty around us, we can better see God’s reflection in everyday life. We remember that this world, while broken, will be made new and perfect once again. This gives us great hope. Beauty lodges like eternity in our hearts, bringing memories of a good God and a future world.
If we want to remember our Creator—if we want a clear reflection of who He is and who we were created to be—then let us become students of beauty.