My default mode is to look for error. I have been a perfectionist my whole life, and so my sharp eyes examine carefully to spot flaws. I easily see what’s wrong, what’s ugly, what doesn’t work. This mistake-radar serves me well as an editor and writer; it’s less helpful as a mom, a wife, a friend.
Over the years, I’ve been reminded again and again of the need to take a second look. I must learn to see — my own life, others around me, the world at large — through a lens focused on grace. If I am skilled at finding fault, I want to become even more adept at finding beauty. This world is full of ugliness, to be sure, but it is also full of people made in God’s image, full of His handiwork, full of His gifts.
In his book Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God, Sam Crabtree makes an unconventional argument: “We rob God of praise by not pointing out His reflection in the people he has knit together in his image.”
Failing to affirm people, being hyper-critical instead of encouraging, is not only hurtful to them but dishonoring to God. He has created every one of us in His image. And those He has redeemed are walking around with His very Spirit living inside them. If I cannot see something to celebrate and praise, I am believing the lie that He is not at work in His beloved children. I am blind.
Paul gives me the prescription for new lenses in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
Without this focus, I am quick to see what’s distasteful, what’s broken, what’s substandard or just plain WRONG. But Paul calls me here to shift my focus — to be even more vigilant in looking for evidence of grace.
It’s about noticing. It’s taking note of the truth, the nobility, the rightness, the purity in the ordinary people and things and events in my everyday world. It’s pausing to notice the lovely in the common. It’s finding something to admire instead of something to criticize. It’s looking for something praiseworthy instead of something to nitpick. And it’s praising the gracious, glorious Savior who is the Source of all that’s good.
Then as I begin to see evidence of grace and God’s beauty in the people around me, I must tell others what I see! Sometimes we are so immersed in our struggles that we don’t realize what progress we have made. It takes another person to point out how God is at work, growing us.
I remember vividly a time when a friend did this for me. I was lamenting to her how I feel like I have not changed at all; it feels like I am still fighting and losing the same old battles. But my friend stopped me — from a more objective point of view, she had seen change, and she told me about it. I was so encouraged to hear that someone close to me had noticed God working in me even when I was too blind to see it!
As women, we are often already looking for beauty — but I’m afraid we tend to focus on outward beauty. How often do I notice and compliment a friend’s outward appearance? I might be quick to say, “Hey, you got a haircut — it looks great!” or “I love that shirt, it makes your eyes look gorgeous!” But let’s go deeper. Don’t just notice the external, fleeting beauty. Train yourself to look for and see the beauty of Jesus — the ways people are reflecting Him, the ways they point you to Him. And then speak up! Offer encouragement and hope to your sister, your husband, your child, your neighbor, by helping them see how Christ is at work in them, how they remind you of Him.
There is so much beauty to be found in the midst of our broken world, if we will open our eyes to see it. When we do, we can be encouraged by the evidence that our beautiful Savior is at work. Any beauty is there because of Him — HE is ultimately the One who is true, noble, pure, right, excellent, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy. So Paul’s exhortation to see and “think about such things” is ultimately a call to see Jesus.
May God transform my vision and yours — may He make us quick to see and speak of the beauty of Jesus reflected in the people around us.