Reading Reflection on Beauty:

There is a blog article over on The Gospel Coalition website titled Do Looks Matter? It opens with a conversation some teens were having in the youth ministry about whether or not it matters how good looking their future wife is as long as they have all the spiritual qualities they are looking for. Jeremy Pierre makes some good points about the importance of the body, as well as challenging what exactly our ideas of attraction entail. This may sound like an immature, or trivial conversation topic, but I don’t think it is. I think beauty is valuable, and a worthy discussion to have with teenagers, as well as adults—one that we have confused and distorted. Pierre is careful not to be all gnostic in valuing a spiritual connection only:
The importance of physical attraction is related to the importance of the body itself. The Bible presents us as a psychosomatic unity. That's a fancy way of saying that we are embodied souls. This is, in fact, God's ideal for us even in eternity. We're not souls longing to be freed from bodies but rather to have resurrected ones (1 Cor 15:35-57). The body is a necessary and good part of God's design of every person you meet. So loving the inside of a person while disregarding the outside is not the biblical ideal of love. Just read Song of Solomon if you don't believe me. Looks do matter. No woman wants a Valentine's Day card that says, "You're so sweet on the inside, it doesn't matter what you look like on the outside." No man does either, though admittedly we are the visually inferior half of our race. But before we settle into holding out for that girl with the right curves or the guy with the square jaw, let me point out that the importance of the body does not necessarily validate our personal preferences regarding what it should look like.
We should recognize and value beauty. The problem is that we are too easily satisfied. We let our culture sell pre-packaged plastic knock-offs of beauty. I love to look at a beautiful woman.  It is amazing to me that all of us have two eyes and ears, a nose and a mouth, and we can all look so completely different.  I never grow tired of meditating on the wondrous creativity of our Maker. I used to enjoy drawing portraits.  Maybe this is a reason why I love to study a face so much.  Unfortunately, with the way our society has manipulated beauty, it can be difficult to admire a pretty woman without feeling competitive or even shameful for admiring another person.  But beauty doesn’t always have to be associated with lust or competition. What is beauty?  Why is it so fascinating?  What is its pull on us?  Why is it so easily distorted and perverted?  The Free Online Dictionary’s primary definition of beauty is “the quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness and originality.” Beauty is one of those words, like love, that is very hard to catch the essence of without mentioning God.  Everything beautiful points to God.  When you admire a pleasing face, it’s God’s excellence of artistry that you are admiring.  I love that the definition includes truthfulness and originality.  Beauty goes hand in hand with purity. I believe this is what is so fascinating.  You cannot contrive beauty without truth.    There seems to be some kind of delicate dance between originality and symmetry.  It is the truthfulness that is so attractive to us.  That’s what’s so obnoxious about our culture’s exploitation and marketing of beauty. You don’t have to market true beauty. And it looks different on everyone. Pierre addresses our cultural influences in what we find attractive:
Marital love involves valuing your spouse's body. But this isn't exactly the same thing as finding it attractive, at least not in the way we typically think of finding something attractive. We may inadvertently assume that being attracted to something is primarily about its level of attractiveness. Attraction seems like it just happens without our conscious participation, and we therefore conclude it is beyond our control. You're attracted to someone, or you're not, and that's that. But attraction seems so automatic because we are culturally influenced even at the level of desire. Our preferences unwittingly imitate the narrow criteria for beauty reflected in fitness magazines or clothing advertisements, in the fashion of the day or the remarks of family members. Without dismissing entirely the mysterious nature of attraction, I wish to point out that we are more capable than we often recognize of directing our preferences. We should not presume that our initial aesthetic sensibilities are an unchallengeable law within us. We have some level of direction over them. The basis for attraction is valuing an actual person, body and soul. Husbands and wives should be attracted to one another because they value the whole person, not because they happen to like olive skin or a firm body. Those things change, but physical attraction need not. Attraction is more a matter of my commitment to value the full breadth of who my spouse is.
Like I said, our standards are too low. The longing for beauty was put in us for a reason. The Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount point us to that ultimate blessedness that we long for (Matt. 5:3-10). The word blessed describes a supernatural joy, true fulfillment.  It describes our future and our approval by God. Do these verses not describe Christ Himself?  Of course they do, and they explain what he is transforming his bride, the church,  to be-- nothing less.  It is only through a new life in Christ that we can become these things.  And we most certainly will because we can “[be] confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). During this process, we reflect the glory of God to others.  Even in our imperfection, as we are being transformed into the full redeemed image of God, others are beholding this glory of the Lord through us.  He doesn’t stash us in a dressing room, away from the world to see.  No, while we are getting ready, the whole world watches. We are accustomed to the wedding being all about seeing the bride.  But here’s the real twist: this wedding will be different.  The theological term given for our ultimate hope and expectation, to see the face of God, is the beatific vision.  There will be nothing more beautiful to behold in all eternity.  We shall see Jesus Christ as He is in His unveiled glory.