Strength and Beauty

A man wants a beautiful woman. A woman wants a strong man. This is evidenced by almost every TV commercial and music video and gym. The question we need to ask is, “What kind of strength and beauty am I looking for?”

Physical beauty and strength are fine; there’s nothing in scripture against those attributes in and of themselves. There’s no sin in the sin lists (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Rev. 22:12-16) about looking good and strong keeping you from heaven. There’s the warning about a woman’s beauty not being only from adornment, but from a meek and = quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:4). But notice that it says it should not come ONLY from those things. This means that the Bible accepts her wearing clothes and jewelry, but that is not to be her source of beauty.

And about men, Paul says that physical training has some, or little, or even in some translations no value; but godliness has great value.

Here we see that strength and beauty are biblical goals, but those characteristics are not musculature, clothing, or other physical attributes. Those goals are godliness – a man’s strength and a woman’s beauty are founded on biblical godliness.

Where do we find strength and beauty in the Bible? One example is in the Song of Solomon. The first thing that the Bride wanted was her man to hold her (1:2-4). The first thing the man did was to praise her beauty (1:9-10). Physical attractiveness and attraction are not sins. The sins are in the “Why?” of our pursuits.

Why do you work out? Why do you wear the clothes you do? Why do you wear that perfume or cologne? Why do you want to attract others? If we base our choices on physicality, then someday we’ll be sorely disappointed. Beauty fades, strength dwindles.

Not only will we be disappointed by the dwindling and fading of all of our efforts to look good, but those goals for the purpose of wanting people to admire us are sins; they’re simply unChristlike. We’re making people idols, and our goal is to attract attention to our physical selves.We shouldn’t be diverted from those goals because they’ll go away, but because they displace Jesus in our lives and in what we show to the world. We should be glorifying Jesus, not our bodies or our souls. 

Godly beauty and strength outlast a lifetime. You can test it this way. The next time you see a funeral, or hear the comments after someone has passed away, or read the obituary, see how many times they say “he had a double chin, his knees were bad, he had weak ankles, he was ripped!, she was a looker!” You won’t hear those (except in rudeness). You’ll hear from those who were affected, either positively or negatively, “She was so sweet, he was so kind, she was always ready to help out.” Or perhaps, “He was a miser, she didn’t care, I couldn’t wait for the day…”

What will your grandchildren hear or know about you? If they know anything at all, it will be about who you were, not what you looked like. They may look at a picture out of interest, but that’s not what affects future generations.

What carries on, your legacy, is your godly strength and beauty. And in simplistic terms, a godly man wants a woman who has godly beauty, and a godly woman wants a man who has godly strength. Our bodies are vastly different from our souls. In our bodies we are, for the most part, limited to a certain form or range of strength and beauty, based on our body type, background, genes, etc. You can only look so good or be so physically strong. But with the spiritual attributes – they come from the Holy Spirit, and are sex-independent. In Christ there is no male or female. A man’s godly strength will be beautiful, and a woman’s godly beauty will give her strength. While there is a God-given form to men and women, and our propensity is to go toward one or the other depending upon our sex, but we can go beyond just one or the other. And that will happen, not because of who we are, but, because of Whose we are. We belong to Jesus, and He will make us strong and beautiful. Strong for the tasks that He has given to us, and how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! Neither male nor female, but one in Christ.

But don’t give up on your body! It’s the temple of the Holy Spirit. Dwell on what that fact entails. We have this treasure in jars of clay, but these jars are not to be broken, at least not by us. We were made by God; we are His, the sheep of His pasture. Our bodies are not ours. Before marriage, these bodies are God’s alone. After, they belong to God and our spouse. Your bodies always have and always will belong to God for His uses. Do what you can to make your body strong and beautiful for whatever task comes your way. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23). Always ask, “Am I working with all my heart for the Lord?”

Poetry

The Vulture, by Hilaire Belloc

The Vulture eats between his meals

And that’s the reason why

He very, very rarely feels

As well as you and I.

 

His eye is dull, his head is bald,

His neck is growing thinner.

Oh! what a lesson for us all

To only eat at dinner!

I’ve found poetry to be a great way to introduce children to several aspects of communication all at once: vocabulary, rhythm, thought patterns, the ability to pay attention, memorization, humor, moral lessons.

So our family is a proponent of poetry. Of course, not all poetry is equal – there’s a lot of immoral verse out there, things that little ones should never see. But there’s also a lot of good verse floating around, and that’s the stuff they need to read and memorize.

It takes some time and effort to read the different types of poems, do some research on the author, and sometimes find out what the poem really means. But once you have confidence in a handful of poets, whether dead or not, then you have a good start.

Some of our favorites are Robert Louis Stevenson, Christina Rossetti, Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, G.K. Chesterton, and Rudyard Kipling. Not all of their poems are good or acceptable, and, for some of them, only a handful of poems are good for kids to learn something proper.

It’s great for history, too. You can teach your kids when the poet lived and what he wrote about. That gives a good timeline. E.g., Robert Louis Stevenson, was born in Scotland shortly (1850) before the American Civil War. And it’s a good way to have children “meet” the authors – with the high-availability of the internet and biographies, it’s not hard for children to find out how diverse authors’ lives are.

One of the pertinent details about poetry is introducing children to the concepts of character and competence. We teach our children the non-correlation between the literary giftedness of an author and his faith. All of the poets were excellent and acclaimed poets and authors, but not all were excellent men. They could write well, but they couldn’t live well.

What you pick is entirely up to you. Keep in mind your goal – Morality? Religion? Humor? Household lessons? You’ll learn how to pick up on the purposes, the themes, motifs. Compilations like “The Moral Compass” and “Children’s Books of Virtues” are good for morality, and contain lots of material, but they’re not ALL Christian, and can lead to teaching humanism, with man as the measure of all things. Books like “Poems for Patriarchs” and “Verses of Virtue” are great material for focusing in on Christian themes, but they are a little short on practical detail. Since we like to start them young, it’s helpful to have a host of shorter poems handy.

Limericks are an easy way to start out, as they are simple, straightforward, easy to read, easy to write, and pleasing to hear. For older ones (starting around age 5), simple haiku is good. You’ll be able to judge in your own household easily enough which of your children are geared toward harder poetry. But limericks and haikus can fit into any time of day or place.

Here are some good poems to get you started:

All things Bright and Beautiful – Cecil Frances Alexander
At the Seaside, and Whole Duty of Children – Robert Louis Stevenson
There Was a Little Girl – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A Riddle – Christina Rossetti
Hoppity – A. A. Milne

Why is storytelling important?

Everyone loves a good story, and people remember a good story. Or rather, they remember a story that impacts them. Someone can tell a great story, or tell a so-so story really well, but unless is draws them in and connects with them, a story told greatly has much less impact than an average story told poorly but that connects with the individual.

The rule is to make the listener care. The listener will ask, consciously or not, “Why do I care?” The storyteller needs to do the job of answering the question. It can be as simple an answer as, “This is a normal human problem.” Or it can be a particular point to a particular group. Talking about educational principles to a group of scientists might not get the same reaction as the same talk to a group of professors.

As we tell stories – at home, at work, with friends – we need to be aware of the audience. Some people are natural storytellers, insofar as they know instinctively how much detail to tell, in the proper order and at the right time. There are others who have no clue what to say, how to say it and when. But we can all benefit from learning more about storytelling.

As parents, it’s important to be able to connect with our children. In marriage, it’s important to connect with our spouse. In reality we all tell stories all the time. We need to focus on how well we do it.

If you were listening to you, would you want to continue to listen to you? How often do you gripe or talk behind someone’s back? Are you tired all the time just to make people sense that you’re a fatigued hero? All of these are signs that you’re telling badly.

People love to hear someone who has a range of emotions. Fatigue is a normal part of life, but so are energy and joy and happiness. Our families like to hear how we are. If we’re frequently speaking as if we’re exhausted, would you like to live around someone like that? But aren’t you also elated at times? Intrigued? Confounded? Interested? People like to know that you’ve done something heroic, but they also like to hear that you’re normal – you got injured, you failed, you slept in, you lost money, etc.

People connect with people. They don’t connect with humans who are the best or the worst. Someone who’s “the best” is arrogant. Someone who’s “the worst” is a psychopath. I know that’s not true, but we feel it. We have to be careful of the image we convey. We may know that we have a range of emotions, but our families typically see us at the end of the day when we’re tired. And our coworkers see us at our best during the day while we’re fully engaged in work.

People out working are busy mentally and physically taking care of, at minimum, keeping their jobs. Those at home with children are busy taking care of business their – training, cleaning, changing diapers. And we’re geared and trained toward liveliness from about 6-6 each day. Then after that we’re drained.

When do we get home? About 6 PM. Then we have dinner. Then it’s time to relax. So we’re all tired and drained. And that’s exactly when we start to tell stories to those about whom we care the most. Sure, we tell some during dinner, but it’s mostly factoids and tidbits.

Sure, there are different stories with different groups. I tell stories to my coworkers differently than I tell stories to my family or friends at church or extended family. There are stories for all kinds of occasions, and not all are appropriate at all times.

But remember that whenever, wherever and to whomever you tell a story, you have the responsibility to make sure that your audience cares. At that point of caring, you’ll connect. And at the point of connection, you’ve developed your relationship. And at that point, they’ll want to listen to you again.