“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
I couldn’t help but think of that quote when I read this gem of a story the other day. It’s true what the quote says: There usually is more that lies beneath the surface, but few can deny that sometimes it’s what we see on the outside that draws us in.
Such was the case for this 20-something woman who had come to find Christianity nearly irrelevant to her life. She writes:
While absentmindedly flipping through the channels of the hotel room television I happened upon an adorably dressed Rockabilly chick. She was seated in a nondescript room talking about something with some guy. The substance of their conversation is not what caught my attention, though. Truth be told, it was her trendy clothes and cute hairstyle that prompted me to pause on that particular channel.
Only after I’d spent a few moments appreciating her style did I start to listen in on the conversation she was having. I was shocked to discover that she was talking about her Christian faith! Who was this girl? No girl I’d ever known who looked like this had anything but disdain for such things. My interest having been piqued, I listened more closely.
She fascinated me with her reflections on pain and redemption, suffering and joy, sin and conversion. I was intrigued, if not yet sold. I finished the program and returned to the pool. As stimulating as I’d found her and her thoughts to be I didn’t spend much time thinking about them after turning off the television set. I was simply not ready to wrestle with such truths.
Her image stayed with me, though. It buried itself somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind. It would not reveal itself again until years later when it would become but a tiny piece of the puzzle that led to my own conversion. Tiny, yes, but hugely significant.
You see, she met me where I was.
Individuality was important to this blogger, and this trendy Christian showed her that she could still express herself and be Christian – an important point for this young woman.
But I see an even deeper truth in this anecdote: that beauty is necessary in the spiritual life.
Now, I’m not talking about beauty in the sense that the world sees it, with an extreme emphasis on hair, make-up, physique, and fashion. I’m talking beauty in the Biblical sense, which does not exclude physical beauty though.
Scripture tells us that one should not put too much emphasis on one’s physical beauty, but rather on one’s relationship to the Lord. Scripture also tells us our body is the temple of the Lord.
A strong relationship with God will only naturally bring about an appreciation for the beauty of our God. And as individuals called to be a physical expression of God’s image and likeness, our appearance should display a reflection of God’s beauty.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla calls this “visible truth”:
Our task is to make the truth visible and lovable in ourselves, offering ourselves as an attractive and, if possible, heroic example. The person who needs to touch and to feel in order to believe will not be easily won by words. Talk alone does not attract, but “making things visible” does.
Of course she’s talking about actions that attract, but I think also our appearance.
We tend to act the way we’re dressed, and if we’re dressed with and carry ourselves with dignity, beauty, and sincerity, our presence could have the potential to attract a second glance and a listening ear, as it did with the young woman aimlessly flipping through the channels.
That second glance could be the glance needed to bring one to the faith. Or, dare I say, attract a future spouse. But most importantly, our aim to be a visible expression of the beauty of God should be for one purpose: to direct focus to the Ultimate Source of the true and beautiful, our Lord.