I was putting her to bed the usual way, with a song and prayer.
Suddenly, my four year-old daughter made a pouty face.
“What’s the matter?” I asked, stopping the song mid-line.
“You sing prettier than me,” she sulked. And then, as if it added insult to injury: “You sing prettier than me and are more beautiful than me.”
I must admit I found my daughter’s comparison of herself to me — at the age of four no less — sobering and a little disturbing. That she would already feel some need to compete in the beauty and talent department with another female saddened me. It also made me realize how innate those feelings can be.
I already knew she was tuned into recognizing and valuing beauty — in nature and in other people. And most days after picking out her clothes, she comes down to the kitchen to ask what probably every woman has wondered at some point, “Am I beautiful?” But this new revelation of comparison and competition made me think deeper about the message of beauty I want my daughter to receive.
God Made Beauty
For those of us who believe God is the creator and ultimate artist, I think it’s easy to see He loves and creates beauty. All around us beauty stirs the senses. The power of crashing waves inspires awe. The crystal points of a single snowflake under a microscope show astounding detail. The quenching taste of pure clean water on a hot day satisfies. The smell of fresh mown hay is delicious. The warm breeze of a spring day after the cold of winter refreshes. We marvel at nature and how it satisfies, engages, and provokes the senses.
We crave beauty and that is good. We admire beauty created by others such as Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” Michelangelo’s brushstrokes, and a perfectly penned sentence. We admire sculpted and toned bodies and flawlessly gorgeous faces.
I love beauty and am constantly on the search to create it: in my home, as an artist, as a writer. As someone who loves to create and capture beauty, I see our fascination with beauty as something God hard-wired into all of us in some way.
As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
I want my daughter to know the search for beauty is something God has implanted in her soul.
God Is Beauty
The search for beauty — and thus identity and value — takes us right to God himself.
More than the latest fashion, the weight on the scale, the most recent hairstyles, or the newest shade of lipstick, we are beautiful because of imago dei.
The Latin phrase imago dei summarizes the meaning of Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” We were created in the image of God, and that is what imago dei means. “Because you are made in God’s image, you exist to reflect and represent Him on this earth,” writes Hannah Anderson in her book Made for More. “Because you are made in God’s image, you are made to proclaim what He is like by doing what He does.”
Which puts a whole new twist on inner beauty.
God himself encapsulates ultimate beauty and we as his image bearers reflect it. The well-loved Psalm 27 says it this way in verse 4, “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”
Zechariah 9:17 exclaims, “For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!”
When we reflect God to others through acts of kindness and forgiveness, grow more like him through the Holy Spirit’s internal work, and do what God would have us do in this world, we are displaying God’s beauty. We are beautiful in the truest sense.
True beauty is about reflecting God to a beauty-starved world that too often simply settles for the skin-deep definition that graces the glossy fashion magazines lining grocery store aisles.
So when my daughter asks me if she’s beautiful, I tell her yes, she is. But that beauty isn’t dependent on her clothes or hair or what others think. She’s beautiful because God made her in his image to reflect him. She doesn’t get it yet, but I hope one day she will.