Beauty and the Pearl

pearl one.jpgA recent article in The Daily Mail estimated that Jennifer Aniston, the star of numerous movies and the hit comedy show Friends, has spent $1.46 million over the years in an attempt to freeze her youthful looks. In a culture where movie stars are treated as gods and goddesses, and women in particular are expected to attain transcendent notions of beauty at all times, it is no wonder that Ms. Aniston would feel the need to go to such great lengths to preserve her beauty.

The theme of the search for timeless beauty is nothing new—the ancient Roman poet Ovid, who lived shortly before Jesus, wrote a mythology about the sculptor Pygmalion who carved a woman of great beauty out of ivory. He was so charmed by the beauty of the statue that he lost interest in real women and fell in love with it. His greatest desire was to marry a real woman who would embody the ravishing looks of the statue. Upon earning the favor of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, his statue was given the breath of life.

The search for beauty is embedded deep within human nature and, by in large, we desperately rely on our physical eyes to find and possess it. Beyond that, we want to preserve its perfectness and keep it forever; beauty is inextricably intertwined with the desire for eternality. But beauty, we sadly know, fades. Ms. Aniston despite her herculean efforts is ageing and eventually a bevy of young starlets will take her place, and given enough time, the same will happen to them as well. And the idea that one could carve the perfect model and breathe life into it like the myth of Pygmalion is, as we know, just that: a myth. Anyone who tries that path in the figurative sense is entranced and enslaved by a cold, lifeless idol that takes many forms such as marital affairs, pornography, and other sexual perversions.

Poor creatures are we—what should we do? How do we satisfy the deep longing of our heart for eternal beauty? I believe that one of Jesus’ parables offers the key to the solution. Jesus said: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46)

The kingdom of heaven, synonymous with the kingdom of God, has a few different, but related, meanings. In one sense, God’s kingdom is a spiritual realm that one must be “born again” in order to enter (John 3:5-7). In this regard, the kingdom of God is related to salvation. Salvation is only through Jesus Christ; therefore, we can think of finding the beautiful pearl of great price as intimately linked to finding and knowing Jesus. The search for eternal beauty, then, ends when we gaze upon Jesus and allow him to rule over our lives. This gaze is not a physical one—though one day believers in Christ will see him face to face—but rather the gaze for now is by means of the eye of the heart in faith, just like David expresses it in one of his psalms:  “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

Therefore, we can live like David, gazing upon the beauty of the Lord in faith for now, and then face to face in paradise. That, I believe, is the ultimate answer for quenching the soul’s desire for eternal beauty.

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