Monday, April 27, 2015

A phenomenological analysis

Beauty is all around us. This last spring I traveled to Montana to meet my dad for the first time since I was a toddler. I was very nervous, even though my brothers were there to support me, as they had been in contact with him for years.  We drove for ten hours straight and in my mind I kept wondering how he would accept me. I was afraid of disappointing my father who never got the chance to raise me. The main reassurance that came to my mind was that because I was beautiful on the outside, he would more readily accept me and love me.  He didn't know about the beauty that I hold on the inside. My nerves subsided as I walked into the restaurant and into my father’s embrace. I knew then, that it didn't matter what I looked like on the outside, only that a father’s love is beyond appearance. How could I have predicted the value my father would place on me based on this first meeting?
A lot of what I was feeling came from uncertainty of my father’s reactions.  I felt nervous because I didn't know how he would judge me.  I wanted his first impression to be a good one, and I assumed that the best way to do that was to look beautiful on the outside.  I juxtapose beauty and success and see them as a valuable combination.  And when I think of success I think of status and money.  I came to this assumption through seeing this in the business world. Personal research led me to find the difference in the average lifetime earnings of attractive people versus unattractive people.  In 2009 the Journal of Applied Psychology published a research paper on the influence of appearance and intelligence on income and financial strain. They found that attractive people earned $230,000 more in a lifetime than unattractive people (Judge). Therefore I assume that beauty is valuable. I wanted my dad to see that I grew up successfully and I wanted him to be proud of me.  I also wanted him to know that I could take care of myself, and reassure him that I will be okay, even though he wasn’t there to raise me.  I thought that his first impression of me would determine how he placed value on me. And by being beautiful on the outside I could show him I was beautiful on the inside.  I felt a little better because I believe I am beautiful. This brings me to the core belief that I discovered through this experience; I believe that I am valuable because I am beautiful. 
If I am valuable because I am beautiful then I am constantly depreciating as I grow older. I assume this because it is said that beauty fades with age. This is a negative implication but when we look at beauty in a different perspective we can see a positive outcome. In 1 Peter 3:3-4 it says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner-self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”   This is what I choose to believe to be true. In this way beauty is judged by God and not by the standards of this world.  Instead of our beauty fading with age, our beauty grows with wisdom as we grow closer to God.  I may believe that outward beauty is valuable but I do not believe it is as eternally valuable as inner beauty.  When I hugged my dad for the first time I bypassed the presuppositions that my dad would value me more because of my appearance. By simply being me, and being his daughter, I already had great value to him, and I believe it to be the same with God. 

Through this experience with my earthly father, I was able to grow closer to my heavenly father. I learned what a father’s love feels like and I found that I could better understand what I had been told my whole life; that my heavenly father loves me. I was better able to identify how God loves me by comparing the two types of beauty: internal and external. I can see plainly how my physical beauty and success is relatively worthless to God compared to my inner beauty and relationship with Him.  God loves me without expectations.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”  God is truly magnificent and fully beautiful because he created beauty.  So why do I find myself worrying about my physical appearance and my value when I believe that God values my inner beauty more, and that his value is unmatched?  I must constantly be reminded of what is truly important to God, as it is very easy to be caught up in the ways of the world. Beauty is all around us, but also within us. Where do you value it most? 

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