Lately, a lot of things have culminated in me rethinking the concept of beauty. People look for symmetry in a face, a glow in the eyes, a toned set of thighs, well-cared-for feet, a crisp voice, a smile, and call these things beautiful. And yes, individually and cumulatively, these things are all beautiful. Art is also beautiful, so is the kind interaction between strangers on a street corner. There is beauty in the darkness, in the crosses we carry, in the pain of our everyday lives. And then, there is beauty in being strong. And I don’t mean the physical strength that can be attained through persistent cardio and strength-training over weeks and months and years. No, the strength I have come to value as beautiful is a strength that wades through the messiness of life and still manages to be gracious and hold on.
Like a lot of people out there, I have unsung heroes and role models in my life. There are my father and mother – my ultimate heroes, among a handful of others comprising family and friends. There are a lot of people I look up to, for waging gracious war with the many battles in their lives, and coming out, albeit a bit beaten, still standing, at the end. These people are beautiful to me. It is in their strength that I find value in life, in being kind even when it is hard to do so, in being gracious when there is nothing remotely resembling grace about something or someone else.
There is beauty in silence when harsh words can be exchanged to fuel fires. There is beauty in this ability to exercise restraint; beauty in the strength it takes for that restraint. There is also beauty in being strong where you are able to care for yourself and be someone others can rely on. There is beauty in being strong enough to sacrifice for others. There is beauty in standing your ground when you believe in something, often meaning that you are standing alone. There is beauty in being strong enough to forgive someone who has shattered your heart and sense of self, intentionally or otherwise. And finally, there is beauty in being strong enough to recognize that you are weak as a human and need to reach out to Jesus (or whomever you pray to, if you do) or someone you trust, to ask for help.
Sure, the beauty of this world puts a great emphasis on that which is pleasing to the eye, but when we learn to value being strong as beautiful, we can free ourselves of the surface elements that leave many of us feeling quite empty.
Within the messiness of our lives lies the opportunity to be strong, and with that opportunity, we can find an unwavering beauty.
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