Bara Beautiful

Beautiful...that’s a loaded word. To some, it may mean physically attractive, to others it could mean balanced, wholesome, influential, selfless. I’ve heard these words used interchangeably, almost synonymously with “beautiful” in some cases in reference circumstantially to a certain individual at hand. I’ve got to be honest here, sometimes I feel like the word is used too frequently, too easily. For me, it’s a weighty word, and so, too often I’m ready to debate one’s essential beauty; for most, it’s not so deep, and I get it. What kind of expert am I anyway, and aren’t we all beautiful in our own uniqueness? Even still, I think it’s a worthy discussion point.

Merriam-Webster defines beautiful as “1) exciting with aesthetic pleasure” and also “2) generally pleasing.” This is interesting to me, as the first definition contains a distinct notability and the latter sounds rather broad and less-detailed. I wonder how these two explanations connect. Hmmm?

In Luke 1, we read of Jesus’ birth foretold. The angel visits Mary, and, bless her heart, she is about scared to death and extremely confused. He reminds her twice that she holds the favor of the Lord and that He is with her. (I would need to hear that, too, if I were in her shoes.) He then proceeded to give her the rundown of what was about to happen to her young, rather inexperienced, betrothed yet still unmarried self. She soon realized, though in part, what a huge role she had in the salvation of man by the giving of birth to the Promised Messiah, Jesus. W.O.W. That’s huge!

Of course, Mary was a pretty savvy gal that wanted to make some sense of it all and did feel the need to mention that it wasn’t really all adding up due to the fact that, indeed, she was a virgin. I mean, yes, I think it would be reasonable to consider conception and womb habitation a bit out of reach at that point. Right? Without hesitation, the angel responded with here’s-how...

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

Yep! He pretty much told her in a nutshell, “Basically Mary, this is how it will unfold, and you don’t have to do a dern thing!  The Holy Spirit’s got this!”

Now, let me ask you...have you ever considered Mary and thought her to be unattractive, cold, nasty-natured, and downright ugly through and through? Nawwww. No way. I’m willing to bet a good deal against that one, even though I think I’m not supposed to. In general, do you think most people would consider Mary, the virgin child-woman, all the way down the road years later even as the broken-hearted momma weeping at the foot of her Son’s groundless cross, to be the substance of beauty?  I’m not sure about public opinion across the board, but, goodness, I do. That gal was something special...utterly beautiful is how I imagine her to be and nothing less. I have not a clue what shape or color her eyes were; how straight or curly her locks lay; whether or not she was apple, pear or athletic-shaped. I don’t know if her voice was soft and gently soothing or deep and raspy and none of it even matters. She was a beauty. I know it.

After hearing the angel’s commission, Mary simply replied, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Even amidst her lingering confusion and angst, she surrendered. She let go of reason. She chose to trust that God would do what He said He would do--point blank. Then, very practically, she went to visit her older cousin because, truly, we all need support and encouragement when life gets crunchy. Elizabeth, also expecting, laid eyes on sweet Mary and cried out joyously calling her blessed, even blessed among women because Cousin Mary, the younger, took the Lord at His Word. Clearly, she was a standout. There’s just something so precious about her. In light of such affirmation, Mary’s response was a song of praise to God for His faithfulness. Mary’s quiet trust and devoted obedience to the will and activity of the Father were the intrinsic details at the core of her being, (Please recall definition #1), that illuminated her outward countenance with pleasure at large, namely the Lord’s pleasure over her. (Does this remind you of definition #2?). Do you see it?  She graced the Earth hundreds of years ago, and even today I can grasp of it in the words spoken by her, to her and over her.

What is it?  Well, to me, it’s beauty. And, Mary?  Well, she’s just unexplainably beautiful. What if being available, open and willing to trust God, to choose to believe what He says, to wait upon His Word, to be obedient in that waiting, to allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us with Truth and bear in us holy fruit is being beautiful?  Psalm 34: 5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant…” So, if we set our gaze on Him, choosing to believe He will keep His promises and in the meantime dwell within us through the presence and power of His Spirit, then we, too, should be and will be singing His praise; and we will possess that special quality, the holy illumination, that is mysteriously appealing and altogether captivating...beautiful.

The beauty of Christ Jesus is ours. The same Holy Spirit that fell upon Mary lives in us. The baby she carried; the boy she raised; and the man--Son of Man-- who came to save her is also our Savior. I guess Bara Beautiful is the perfect name for a communal gathering of women who want just that. We want to be full of the radiance of Christ as we lay down our lives for Him, as we align our hearts with His heart...and seek, listen, affirm, surrender, trust, obey, wait, encourage, get together, and praise His Holy Name beyond reason and understanding. In this, our God is pleased; and we look to Him,  and we are BEAUTIFUL!