A few months ago, a guide to television programming focused on what it described as an "alluring" gallery of TV's most "evocative" faces. The magazine explained that after searching through the sea of faces flooding into our homes, its editors had selected and photographed the 20 it found the most extraordinary.
"You'll find heartbreaking beauty, soul-stirring emotion ...," the story began - by which time I was already muttering to myself about these purveyors of glitz and glamour.
Then my eye caught a phrase about the editors' concern to find a countenance or two with comic character. "That's better," I thought. And it got better still. A face "speaks volumes," it continued. "Each face possesses its own special stamp of distinction. Each is unforgettable." So, that editorial committee did realize, after all, that beauty is more than skin-deep, I conceded. Perhaps they weren't assembling that gallery of faces just to boost sales.
I reminded myself not to be so impetuous, and saw this as an opportunity to dig more deeply into the real beauty business. I recalled statements by Mary Baker Eddy, founder of this newspaper: "All beauty and goodness are in and of Mind, emanating from God; but when we change the nature of beauty and goodness from Mind to matter, the beauty is marred, through a false conception, and, to the material senses, evil takes the place of good" ("Rudimental Divine Science," Pg. 6); "Comeliness and grace are independent of matter. Being possesses its qualities before they are perceived humanly. Beauty is a thing of life, which dwells forever in the eternal Mind and reflects the charms of His goodness in expression, form, outline, and color" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 247).
A study of the Bible, and especially of the teachings of Christ Jesus, has helped me see that mere physical attractiveness can be deceiving. It has no inherent beauty, no real vivacity or charm. It is fleeting, without enduring grace or goodness. As Jesus once said to his disciples, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63).
We experience a quickening - a spiritual enlivening - whenever we identify in ourselves, and in others, some aspect of God's nature. What is important is that we express beautiful qualities, understanding that they are deeply rooted in God. He is their source.
The goal in this approach is to discern unblemished, spiritual selfhood. As a person establishes his/her true identity in this way, it becomes possible to overcome those counterfeit influences in society that call for physical perfection at any cost, involving an ever-growing array of lotions, drugs, or cosmetic surgery.
Seeking to see ourselves and others in a more spiritual way is prayer. It brings recognition of our unique and perfect individuality as children of God, each as beautiful as is our creator. Through developing spiritual sense we can stop comparing ourselves with the striking faces we see on the tube or on the screen, and model ourselves on the stable, lasting, flawless qualities of God that have been abundantly given to all of us. This makes anyone feel more self-confident, serene, complete.
Everyone wants to look as good as possible and create the right impression. And when we discover our spiritual nature, things happen! Our whole outlook on life changes. The expression on a person's face is transfigured when qualities like gentleness, meekness, kindness, honesty, joyfulness, occupy his or her thinking. We all grow lovelier through communion with God.
There's no doubt about it; the truly alluring - let's say, desirable - qualities are those that are derived from God. And they develop forever. The most evocative are those that inspire loving responses in people and help to bring out the best in them. God is Love, and the more shiningly and convincingly we express our identity as Love's idea, the more effectively we convey to others something of the limitless fact that their own identity is beautiful, too.
The children of God's creating always have what that magazine called a "special stamp of distinction." They carry the imprint of their Designer. And we are all "unforgettable." Let's begin to live this spiritual beauty now!