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Meaningful beauty

I saw an infomercial recently for a product called Meaningful Beauty. It’s a skin care product and the entire presentation reminded me of how much our culture worships youth and youthful appearances. On one level the whole commercial and its claims were so absurd it was funny. At another level I thought of all of the people who get sucked into this mindset and it was sad.

The infomercial features a celebrity who is almost fifty. Photos of her at twenty-eight and forty-eight are juxtaposed and we are asked if we can see any difference. It’s obvious the picture of her at forty-eight has been retouched. Nonetheless, we’re told that she has turned back the clock on visible aging. The secret to her “ageless, beautiful skin” is a lotion formulated by Dr. Sebagh. He is a French doctor who has discovered “a revolutionary anti-aging ingredient that comes from the extract of a rare orchid from the Emerald Coast in France.” The orchids sometimes live to be one hundred years old due to “remarkable longevity molecules.”

Then they bring the heat—“celebrities, models and socialites flock to his exclusive offices in London and Paris, paying thousands of dollars for a series of treatments containing Dr. Sebagh's amazing melon extract.” That’s from the website. The infomercial tells us Dr. Sebagh is in such demand that it’s hard to get an appointment with him. But take heart, though the good doctor is too busy due to the endless stream of celebrities, models, and socialites seeking his services, our celebrity is determined to let the world know about this skin care therapy. (Just think of her as the Mother Teresa of skin care). She tells us on the website that “I love to share my secrets with my friends.” (Of course, that should read “paying friends”).

This whole approach to life is a mile long and an inch deep!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best but there’s something terribly awry with thinking that physical beauty is the most meaningful kind of beauty and once it diminishes we'll go to any length to try to get it back. There is a glory to youth but it soon fades and doesn’t return. It’s meant to be replaced by the glory of experience, wisdom, and age (Proverbs 16:31, 20:29). This is exactly what takes place in many cultures. It sometimes happens in our culture, it just doesn’t get much attention. Instead, it’s dwarfed by subtle and not-so-subtle messages that being young is everything and if you’re not young, then trying to look like we are is the next best thing.  As a result, there is a glut of people over thirty desperately trying to look like they’re under thirty and it almost always looks ridiculous (just think of the last dad or mom you saw trying to dress like their teenage son or daughter).

What would it be like if we gave our character as much attention to our character as we do our cosmetics? This is not just a question for women because more and more men are chasing the cosmetic fountain of youth as well. Maybe more to the point, there is a double standard in our culture where it’s more acceptable for men to look their age than women. All of this is to our poverty.

Youth and physical beauty are just stages of life that are meant to pass. Living in denial of this basic truth is not healthy. Living with hope that God has something better in mind for us (and our bodies) is why Paul can write, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

Being at peace with who we are and where we’re going—that’s meaningful beauty!

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