Responsively Yours: Real Beauty
I haven’t spent a lot of time since my teen years looking at “beauty” magazines. But, when we started talking about this issue of Response, I was reminded how much of that teen beauty advice was disappointing to me.
Start with one of the basics: good skin. The advice was to get enough sleep and drink enough water. This is definitely not something you can go to the corner store and purchase. Having good skin is based on creating healthy habits for a lifetime. Healthy skin is most easily achieved when your skin is healthy.
The Scriptures don’t speak about beauty as an objective, but they do use the term to describe the holiness of the redeemed, the glory of God’s blessings and the life of the called community. Some of these uses of the word beauty carry a sense of “flourishing” as well as “ornamented,” or “lovely to look at.”
Maybe there are some connections between a flourishing life of faith and real beauty! The Wesleyan view of a life of discipleship — John Wesley would have called us to “holiness” or “sanctification” — is to build habits of living that open us to the work of the Holy Spirit and then to live lives that show the fruits of God’s work. We are called to live fruitful lives.
Consider the Womens Division’s resolution to General Conference entitled “The Girl Child.” This resolution highlights the importance of girls’ education — a foundation for real beauty. As we seek to empower girls and women around the world, this resolution helps us live into lives of social holiness.
To be fruitful and faithful, we have to invest time in our spiritual lives as well. Are we opening ourselves up to God through Scripture, prayer, worship, Holy Communion and holy conversation? Are we acting as God would have us act? Real beauty is a life that is flourishing because its spiritual roots are healthy and it is encouraged to bear fruit.
We can come to bear fruit by:
- Alleviating suffering;
- Responding to abuses of power;
- Listening for voices of persons who are shut out;
- Being not just stewards of earth’s resources but advocates of them; and
- Working to change structures and processes that lead to unjust results.
This is what we point toward in United Methodist Women’s Purpose when we affirm our call “to know God and to experience freedom as whole persons through Jesus Christ; to develop a supportive, creative fellowship.” United Methodist Women members seek to develop together as faithful and fruitful followers of the Gospel. That means building our experience of the grace of God, inviting others into our units and circles, and small groups that nurture and support them, and working together to be Gospel to a hurting world. Our programs are places to open our hearts and minds so we can flourish as individuals and as an organization.
What happens when someone is not flourishing? My observation is that it is easy to turn inward. It seems almost natural to become absorbed by the demands of attending to the diagnosis and treatment of whatever illness or condition we face, and just at the time when we need the strength of others, we limit our connections. Does this apply to someone you know? Can you be part of the creative, supportive fellowship for her? Does this apply to your unit of United Methodist Women? Can we help you be a team that lives out the Purpose?
Let’s find ways of creating the habits of life that lead to flourishing, as Christians and as local units. Working together, we can demonstrate real beauty and become Gospel for the world God loves.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Date posted : Mar. 25, 2008