Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Beauty that is Not False

In light of my recent post about beauty (Mirror, Mirror on the Wall), I wanted to share these thoughts again about a very special woman and the very important life lesson she gave me.

    Raising a daughter and three sons in a beauty-obsessed culture has certainly posed some significant challenges, but thankfully nearly thirty years ago I met a woman who embodied the very essence of beauty. Long before The Daughter was but a babe in arms, I found myself struggling to process the conflicting messages that bombarded me in this area.  How could a concept that has been so totally corrupted by man be redeemed? What did walking out redemption of an idea like beauty look like (no pun intended)? Could I truly embrace the truth that beauty emanates from the soul of a woman or a man as they mirror the image of the Living God as opposed to the cultural mandate that the reflection in the mirror is the most important representation of beauty? How could I not succumb to the seduction of a culture that cuts, carves, and transforms both men and women, but predominantly women, into objects that bear little resemblance to real human beings and furthermore, serves to sexualize them in abhorrent ways?  And perhaps most importantly, how in the world would I be able to teach my daughter and my sons what I struggle to understand, embrace, and practice myself.?
   And then I met a woman whom the Lord used to help me understand the concept of beauty in a powerfully transcendent way. She became the representation of the plumb-line to which I returned over and over as I struggled to redefine my ideas about beauty. Her name was Sadie Yoder, and she was the undoubtedly the most beautiful woman I have ever known.

Mom and Dad Yoder
She was also the godliest. She had a peace and a serenity that drew others to her like weary travelers to an oasis in the desert. Yet her outward appearance was in many ways quite ordinary, but her inner beauty, well her inner beauty was so extraordinary that it totally consumed her outer being. Raised in an Amish home, she was a woman who never wore make-up a day in her life and she certainly never invested a dime in any miracle creams that promised to mitigate, alter, or alleviate the passage of time. She was totally comfortable in her size 14 dresses. In fact, she was totally comfortable in her skin. Her skin was just that. Her skin. It was not who she was or what she was. It was the covering over the muscles and tissue and bones. It did not define her or empower her. It was simply just the covering for the tent. Each time I left her presence I came away refreshed and challenged anew to reorient my thinking to the truth of the gospel she so loved and embodied. I found her beauty and her faith compelling. She was absolutely gorgeous to me. When my daughter was little, she told me many times that she wanted to grow up to be like Sadie. I understood. I wanted to grow up to be like Sadie, too. I have been thinking about her a lot this week. Her beloved husband passed into the glories of heaven week before last, and the family gathered at the homestead one last time to lay the body of the man she loved with all of her heart into the ground. He was just as remarkable as she. The beauty she emanated is in no small part due to the steadfast love and faith that they shared. She was his beloved and he was hers. They were beautiful together.

Sadie as a young woman
     I am so thankful that before The Daughter and I had the inevitable teenage arguments about make-up, pierced ears, and the length of her dresses, we decided together that Sadie would be the hallmark and standard by which we would judge beauty. It was a good decision and one that helped to steer our discussions in the right direction. We would talk about Sadie and the fact that although she took care with her appearance, she was not consumed by a need to pursue a notion of beauty that was totally false.
    I am blessed to know many beautiful women, but what I find most beautiful about them is the strength of their spirits, the tenderness of their faith, and the genuine lack of artifice that they possess. It is never the size of the waistline or the lack of wrinkles on their skin. It is the way that they look when they smile or when they laugh with joy. It is the undeniable and beautiful glory of the heavenly Father I see reflected in them.
    Mom Yoder, I am missing you today. I am missing your beauty and how you helped me understand what the world could not. I am so thankful to have known both you and Dad. You made a difference in my life. I am comforted and encouraged by the thought that at long last you are worshipping together at the feet of the Beautiful Savior, Jesus himself.

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