The Physicality of Beauty

                In the last few years there has been a strong resistance against women portrayed in the media. People rightfully complain that women are sexualized and oppressed with an unrealistic standard of beauty and activists have aimed to instill realistic views of beauty and a higher self-esteem in young women.  I fully affirm their intentions and it is important for people to have a healthy view of themselves and others, but the typical model used by such individuals may not be as helpful as they think.

                When faced with mainstream views of beauty people often claim, “ that these standards are unrealistic” (rightly so) and “that everybody is beautiful in their own way.” Fair enough—I completely agree. What I do not agree with is how these two ideas are then implemented in culture. The next step from individuals who are anti-media (as far as views of beauty in the strictly physical sense are concerned) is to affirm beautiful qualities in other people. These movements come in the form of “imperfectly perfect” tags or “#flawless”, where people affirm their “imperfections” and proclaim that they are valuable and beautiful in spite (and in some cases because) of them.

These movements are not problematic because they motivate people to appreciate themselves, rather they are problematic because they affirm the concept that in some form or another ones physical appearance and how one feels about their physical appearance affects one’s value. A person in these forums may say something along the lines of, “ I have scars on my knees #flawless,” but what they really mean is that the physical scars on ones knees may seem like a flaw, but really they are an asset to my perceived perfection or “flawless-ness”. This perfection does not refer to ones physicality necessarily, but to one’s very being, their immateriality (personality) included. And may I say that although this is very romantic in nature, we cannot hold physical appearance so close to our value (even positively), because it is just not realistic. Sometimes we are ugly and that needs to be OK.

Ah. Ugly, it is such an “ugly” word. You probably cringed when I said it and if I called myself ugly you would run to my rescue affirming that it were not true. The question though is why? Probably because you are afraid that if I call myself “ugly” then I will think of myself “less than” or “not equal to” others, and this is the notion that we need to kill if we want individuals with a strong self-concept.  It is absolutely OK to not be beautiful, in the physical sense of the word.  We need to have the self-confidence to admit that sometimes we are ugly (also in the physical sense of the word). When your playing sports, sleeping, crying, eating with your mouth open, wearing those plum pants you might be ugly. That is fine. It is okay. Human beings are sometimes beautiful and sometimes gross, and there is nothing surreal about that fact.

If we want to raise young men and women who have strong self-esteem do not teach them to add transcendent notions of goodness to their arbitrary physical qualities. Because in all reality, one day their skin will wrinkle and their hair will go drab and all they will have to cling onto is the catch phrase that “they are beautiful, if only they choose to see it.” And in the romantic sense that might be true, but it is still an insufficient foundation to build one’s sense of worth. Instead teach them that some days they will be incredibly striking, and other days will be a little rough—but what they should put their faith in is not the physical attributes of their body, but the mind inside it. Because whether or not the corporeal image is attractive, the mind shall always be enticing.. A person who knows that they themselves and those around them are valuable, both when they are physically striking and when they are rough around the edges is a person who has mastered the art of confidence and has shed off shallow notions of love.

Glory to the Father

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged.

I wish there were reasons for this, but honestly one, I’ve been busy and two, I’ve been learning. The last two years I’ve learned so much from God and I wasn’t ready to share this information because I was still processing it. And although none of us stop learning, I think I’m at a better stage to share my growth now than before.

I’ve come a long way. Sometimes I look back at my old posts and cringe– I think ugh… I can’t believe I wrote that or I can’t believe I thought that! My views have evolved so greatly and it’s not that I’m not still a firm Christian– I am— but my understanding of God has deepened exponentially.

At one point I worried about money, love, marriage and “sin-management”, but can I tell you guys something? After a long course of lessons from God I realized this— that nothing but the Love of God carries us. Nothing else. I’ve come to realize all acts, beliefs and theories must stem from this understanding that God loves us so deeply and His love truly is unconditional.

I lived with a lot of pain, shame and abuse I hurt regularly on the inside and I craved for attention from others. On one hand I had all these unhealthy tendencies on the other hand I had a desire to do good. So when I did bad— I had an unhealthy way of “punishing myself” for my wrongs. But God doesn’t look at us in terms of “good and bad”. He looks at us as broken and He spends time carefully knitting out lives back together. We LITERALLY don’t need to worry about anything– we must only continuously submit to the Holy Spirit and take experiences as we go.

 

I know this article is a bit nuance and not necessarily practical— but the lessons I’ve learned from resting in God’s embrace are astronomical. I suggest that you take the daring step to believe in His scandalous love and see how it transforms you too!

Celiabacy: A Message to Christian Singles

A few weekends ago I went hiking with some of my friends. I’m back from College now, and I haven’t seen these guys for almost a year. It is safe to say that we all had a wonderful reunion.

As we were catching up one of my friends announced that he was thinking about converting to Catholicism. We all found this incredibly interesting and started asking him questions as to why. One of the things he said was, ” When I went to Catholic bible studies I was amazed. There were guys my age, 21, 22, who were giving their lives to become priests– to live a life of celiabacy– and they were happy! My friend continued to explain the other points, but I got caught on this one statement. Celiabacy brought these boys joy and I began to wonder, do I find joy in my celiabacy/chastity? 

If I’m going to provide an honest answer I will say up until now, no. I didn’t.  I always spent my time frequently praying for my husband, imagining my husband and anticipating married life. I didn’t want the gift of singleness! I wanted to get married and have a man of my own– and although I’ve sustained my purity I never cherished it.

“… there were guys my age, 21, 22, who were giving their lives to become priests– to live a life of celiabacy– and they were happy!”

How odd this statement was to me. Men finding happiness in purity? It’s not that I didn’t believe it, I did, but I couldn’t get over how it violently confronted my own wishes– and then of course I was moved to repentance. You see we can so easily make love and sex an idol in our own minds, but it ought not to be. The thing about the gospel is that asides from Christ you virtually are not in ultimate need of any other indulgence. You live for Him, you die for Him– you do everything for Him and when you have sex or abstain from it– yes, you also do it for HIm. You do it in worship and today that thought captivates m and I am proud of my chastity — however counter-cultural that may be. I’m proud that my self- control brings God glory and I’m proud that because of this I’m able to understand His spirit and preserve my love for Him– not His love for me— but my love for Him.

You see, whether you’ve always practiced absitence or you’ve made a new commitment to it, the truth is that the act of absitence itself is a living sacrafice we make to our God. It is an image of self-control and divine commitment and for that we should be happy. 

So if you’re single, yes, go pray for your future spouse that is a good thing, but also thank God for your singleness, your joy in Christ and the opportunity for worship, because that is the present and we do not wait until the future to express joy for our gifts. 

G Van

Rewriting our Stories

At one point or another, you and I are going to feel the weight of our stories. The dark moments in our life will seem heavy as we ponder things we’ve done or things that have been done to us. Perhaps you’re thinking about those moments right now.

It is the devils work to condemn you with the past, it is his job to fill you with hopelessness but can I tell you that the story he brings up is no longer yours?
When Jesus died on the cross He was making a new narrative for humankind. A narrative that did not need to end in death but rather one that could be celebrated in the presence of God. When He died He took your old narrative and he plunged it in death, a direction it was already headed and when He rose again He gave you and I a new beginning. A new start and a new story.
The world wants you to think that you cannot be made new as the pages of your book are darkened with splotches of ink. But what is darkened pigment to the creator of light?

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Identifying the Counterfeit

I’ve heard it said time and time again. “Joel Osteen, that guy is a false prophet”, “He teaches prosperity instead of the true gospel” or “he’s not concerned with heavenly things and only leads his congregation to trust in earthly wealth.”

And on and on it goes…

And you know, I’m not necessarily in disagreement with these individuals. I’ve heard Osteen and I know that he has a church that predominately focuses on self-fulfillment rather than self-denial, but to complain about Osteen’s ministry (or anyone’s ministry for that matter) is to miss what they are doing. 

Sure, Osteen focuses on self-fulfillment, but the more important fact is that he is successful. He has the biggest church in the United States, his message touches people. Of course we can argue  that his message is the “wrong” message– but we are still missing the point. The fact that Osteen’s self-help regime resonates with the masses is because the masses feel like they need help. 

There are thousands of individuals out there who feel like they are defeated, unworthy and unhappy and Osteen attracts them. Why? Because Osteen affirms them.” You are beautiful”, “You are made in God’s image”, “God is not done using you,” “God does not define you by your past and you ought to be excited about your future”. He says all these things. Now, if you were a defeated individual would these words not season your wounds with optimism? Of course they would. They would give you security, hope and perhaps even an opportunity for vulnerability. It would feel nice. 

Here is the thing, like the Apostle Paul with the Corinthians (1 Corinithians 3:2) Osteen is feeding these defeated individuals milk as they are too weak to swallow the solid food of the gospel. His failure is that he does not lead his congregation to the solid food and many of them may not encounter the marvelous richness in the Cross of Christ. But those of us who are swallowing solid food can also fail. We can become guilty of criticizing others for taking baby bites. We can unjustly condemn them for not being a Christian with sound doctrine without crediting the fact the God is not done with them… as He is not done with you. 

The thing is this, God will always reveal Himself to those who are seeking Him. Always. And He will always work on the hearts,  souls, minds and strengths of His children, that we may worship Him as wholesomely as possible, but this sanctification process is a life-long journey and its one that must be nurtured with love— love from the Father and from ones’ brothers and sisters– that’s our job. Our job is too love one another as God loved us and when you love someone unconditionally  you are not only sharing the gospel– you are living it. 

So– Osteen preaches an unfulfilling Gospel— so what? God will speak to Him without you. Go out there and love fiercely and worship wholeheartedly so that when people who are seeking come to you, they experience the love of the Father and witness the life of the disciple, so they may too be directed to Christ himself.  

The world knows of too many insincerities . Go out and live the true Gospel and the counterfeit will be made obvious.   

Do You Really Think That? … Yes… I do.

This is a short post, but it’s one of praise.

We are all so complex, so broken and so far from God’s purity but, sometimes we negate the boundlessness of God’s love. We think…

Do you really think that God is going to save you… again?

Do you really think God is going to completely transform your life?

Do you really think that….

God is going to plan your life?

God cares about every issue?

That He will really bring you a job/education/opportunity?

… That He listens to every prayer?

And on and on and on. And the answer to this question should be, Yes. I do. You see God holds you so tightly in His hand, He loves you dearly. Scandalously so. Wrestle through the important questions and discard the unhelpful ones. Be enamored by His perfect love, because He does indeed love us.

Beauty

I haven’t written in a while. There are two reasons for this.

1) School really tires me out and it takes a lot of my time.

2) I don’t really have much to say about things.

The second one is surprising to me. If you were to know me, apart from the virtual world, you would know that I am extremely charismatic and enthusiastic. I love people and I love to talk and I am exceptionally fond of sharing my opinions. But the last year has been different. The last year I’ve been learning to listen.

And you know it’s been really amazing. I don’t know how to explain the experience but to liken it to sanding. I really feel like God has been smoothing out some major rough patches in my life. And now that I’m learning to sit in the quietness and to recognize beauty.

Beauty… G Van… that was random.

Ya, I guess it is a little a random. But it’s true. Today i was watching Dr. Oz, and Oz asked Diane Keaton to define beauty. Keaton expressed beauty to  be a feeling.I don’t know what she continued to say about it. I’m not a regular Oz watcher and I wasn’t really interested in the conversation, but it got me thinking,,.

See, Keaton isn’t wrong. Immaterial and intangible qualities like beauty cannot be measured by mass or weight. Yet they cannot be ignored, they are indeed… felt. However its odd for me to just assume that beauty is found in a feeling. It seems like a minimalist conclusion. The what is beauty? Well… maybe beauty is spoken for.

Again… I know what your thinking. That’s the title of Alyssa Bethke’s book! You’re right! I haven’t read the book, but I saw the promotional video and the title and Bethke’s sentiments stuck with me.

See..the thing is this, beauty can be felt– but the feeling doesn’t generate beauty. The feeling itself doesn’t make something beautiful. An individual knows something is beautiful when they decided that its beautiful. Once someone expresses or acknowledges something to be beautiful the feeling of awe is just a natural follow-up.

How incredible is it then, when we see God affirm creation as “good.” God has spoken for us. He has called us beautiful. He has made us to be wonderful and to live wonderful lives. And when you sit back in the stillness of the world and you listen for God, you realize that the world has flashing lights and fancy things, but God has the voice that sustains beauty ad-mist grime.

God has the voice and He makes things beautiful.