Beliefnet
Safe Place with Ruth Graham

I was in the car a long time this weekend driving to and from New Jersey to speak at a dinner for The Atlantic Christian School. (Great school with a big vision.) My CD was playing worship songs and one had these words:

When I look into Your holiness
When I gaze into Your loveliness
Your loveliness
When all things that surround become shadows
In the light of You
In the light of You

I began to think about “loveliness”. How do we define that? Can we define it? Is it ethereal?

Do we use the term “lovely” when it comes to a man? Not usually. I admit and I think most of us of Jesus as male since that is how He appeared in the Gospels. He was manifested in a male body – as a baby he was circumcised according to Jewish law for a male child. He hung around a group of fishermen and was addressed as a man by those He encountered.

In some circles, that may be a problem – it isn’t for me. I am not a feminist who cringes at masculine language in the scripture. Nor will I ague with those who want gender-neutral wording of scripture. I have bigger issues to think and argue about. I have had some wonderful, honorable men in my life who also showed tenderness and love. However, I wouldn’t describe them as “lovely”. I tried to think of a man I would describe as “lovely”.

Loveliness seems to be a feminine quality. What do we describe as lovely? A beautiful view. A dress. A meal. A room. An event. An experience. A dance. A car. A trip. So how is Jesus “lovely”?

The definition of lovely is, “having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye; charmingly or gracefully beautiful; highly pleasing; delightful; of a great moral or spiritual beauty.” So by that definition, “lovely” is much more than “beauty”. It is not just something that can be seen, it is something deeper that encompasses character. Nobility and honor are lovely.

Perhaps we can say someone/something is lovely when they are fulfilling God’s purpose for them/it – they are moving with the flow of God’s Spirit. They are not at odds with God’s purpose. They are not angry or pushy. They are comfortable in their own skin. I think we “know” when we are in the presence of loveliness.

I do not know him, but the Pope seems to be a lovely man. And I am sure he must be but perhaps if I really knew him I wouldn’t think that. Loveliness has to be consistent with one’s behavior and attitudes. The inside has to match the outside, and the outside has to match the inside. (And from all I can tell the Pope is exactly  that way!) I knew a man once who was handsome to look at, talented, great personality, well-liked in the community, full of good deeds and loads of fun. But – and it is a critical “but” – he had a secret life and was rotten on the inside, rotten to the core. Eventually, he was unmasked. It was very sad.

One can have a beautiful form and face, a beautiful voice but if the character is mean-spirited, self-centered,  you would not say they are lovely. One can be ugly in form and face but if their spirit is generous and kind you would say they are lovely. My mother used to have a friend whose face looked like that of a frog. She had  a wonderful sense of humor, had a lively intellect,  was caring, never self-centered and always generous with her time and affection. I saw her as lovely.

Remember God said He doesn’t look on the outward appearance but He looks at the heart. We tend to get it backward. How much time do we spend dressing up the outside to present to the public but not early the same time and discipline on the inside. We short-change the inner beauty routine of prayer  and meditation.

May we all live as those who know our beauty lives on the inside and as we develop a lovely character it will manifest itself on the outside. My Mother used to say, “a woman cannot help it if she is not beautiful when she is 21 but if she is not beautiful by 40, it’s her fault.” That is true for all of us. I said I had a hard time thinking of a lovely man but actually I believe my Father is a lovely man. Many would agree with me. He has a gentle, gracious spirit reflecting the hours he spends in God’s Presence. Perfect? no. But lovely all the same.

I know I need to spend less time on the outward appearance and more time on my inner self – to become a better picture of Jesus’ loveliness. How ’bout you?

 

 

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