Lately, I have been organizing my Pinterest Boards, and last night, I worked on my “Authors and Creators” board which features pictures of authors, their homes, offices, and other artifacts of their lives. One particular picture jumped out at me as I was weeding duplicate pins. It was a picture of C.S. Lewis (one of my all time favorite thinkers) and his wife, Joy Davidman Lewis, and I thought, What a funny looking little lady, followed up by the thought, Well, he wasn’t that good-looking himself. And then I was appalled.
I come from a family that fixates on appearances. Often the very first words out of peoples’ mouths regarding people they have met or know is a judgmental comment about their appearance. Some of us are more aware of this than others. Some of us, who feel less “beautiful” than others, are actually so aware of this we experience insecurity or dread at the prospect of a family gathering.
My great aunts on my father’s side, three delightful women that always reminded me of the three fairy godmothers in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, always told me how pretty I was as a child. They told me to stand up straight because I was beautiful enough to be Miss America. Years later, at a family reunion after the birth of my third child ,however, the last living aunt hugged and kissed me and proclaimed, “You have such a pretty face. It’s too bad you’ve put on so much weight.” My heart sank. I had now been relegated to the ranks of the less-than-attractive outsiders.
My mother’s family is no less guilty. Every person is first assessed by their appearance. They are sometimes found worthy despite their lack of beauty, but make no mistake, lack of a perfect figure or a beautiful face is definitely viewed as a handicap.
And despite my awareness, despite my own hurt and uneasiness, I had just judged Joy Davidman Lewis and her husband in the same way. Oh, Lord, change my heart!
There is, however, one relative with whom I most closely associate the word “beautiful,” my YeaYea (that’s grandma in Greek.) Although she was not unattractive, her appearance is not the reason I associate true beauty with her. YeaYea used the word beautiful to describe actions, appreciation, and her perception of heart issues. If you made YeaYea a gift, no matter how clumsy your fingers, it was “beautiful” in her estimation. Any kind deed was also assessed as beautiful. Any act of love was beautiful. I want to use the word beautiful, and the idea of beauty as she does.
By all accounts, and by his own revelation of character in his writing, C.S. Lewis was a beautiful man, and so it would seem was his wife. Beauty is not a condition of the skin, face, or form. Beauty is a condition of the heart.