My husband pulls back from the embrace we're wrapped in as we stand in the kitchen. He brushes my hair behind my ear and says, "You're beautiful, more beautiful than ever." The kids are running through the house, a grocery list is running through my head, and the never-ending to-do list is running over with urgency. I turn away, afraid to receive those words, distracted from receiving those words, not quite sure of the truth of those words in light of the lines etching themselves ever-deeper on my face.
But he already thinks that I'm beautiful. I recall the words he speaks over grooms at weddings he officiates: "Your bride should be more lovely and more holy because she is married to a man like you." It is the groom's sacrificial service and nurturing love that bring out his bride's loveliness. A woman loved is a woman who is beautiful, and not primarily externally beautiful. She is at rest, ever secure, always wanting to be the best that he already sees in her.
I remember then that this wedding charge is drawn from Ephesians 5, a picture of how Christ loves the church: ". . . just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing."
I think of how I turned my head away, how I pushed from my mind that he might think me beautiful because I know the truth about me.
How often I do this to my Christ as well! I dwell not on His love and kindness but on what I must do to be holy and without wrinkle for Him so that He'd count me as beautiful. When I am already beautiful! I am already what I aspire to be. And in actuality, it is His nurturing care that makes me more and more lovely. His love is the catalyst for my sanctification and holiness. As I focus on receiving His love, He will make me beautiful. He will make me love loveliness. He will make me holy.
Why do I turn my head away from my Christ? Why do I move so quickly to activity and attempts at self-sanctification rather than soaking in the tenderness of God's love toward me? For the same reasons I turn from my husband's love. Because I don't feel beautiful. Because my heart and mind are all twisted up again and He knows best how ugly I can be. Because there is always something that calls for my attention--something to give toward, not something to receive. Because I believe that it's my activity before God that will make me truly beautiful.
And so I turn my head toward Him, not away. He is not repulsed by me. No, Jesus has made me lovely in His eyes. And He is making me more lovely in time, as I receive His love and tender kindness.