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Imperishable Beauty

Some time ago a reader of this site asked if I could address a concern in his life. He had been pursuing a young lady and beginning to think about marriage, but rather suddenly found that he was no longer attracted to her. She was a godly person and just the kind of woman he could see himself settling down with. But then he looked at her and saw that the physical attracted had just plain disappeared. What could he do? What had gone wrong? Michael McKinley recently addressed a question much like this over at the 9Marks blog, so I will begin with his thoughts and add my own.

I want to encourage this young man to do three things:

Look in the Mirror. Start by taking a look in the mirror. “It’s unlikely that the paunch hanging over the waistband of your cargo shorts represents her idea of masculine perfection. And even if women are less hung up on physical appearances, you’re probably not the romantic and emotional connection she’s been dreaming of her whole life either.” Exactly so. It smacks of pride to look at this woman, created by God in his image, and to determine that she is not up to your standards. Men are often looking for an ideal of physical perfection even though they are far from the male equivalent. Why begin with a mirror? Because, as Michael points out, we’re all making compromises. That complete package who is perfect in every way—from the physical to the spiritual to the realm of character—that person doesn’t exist; and if she did, you’d drag her down in no time.

Look at Your Character. I have written regularly and as forthrightly as I know about young men and their dedication to pornography. Porn is giving young men a completely unrealistic view of women, elevating the physical and completely ignoring all matters of character. Have you ever watched a pornographic video that emphasized beautiful character? Exactly. It’s ridiculous to even imagine it. Five or ten or twenty years of dedication to pornography will go a long way to convincing you that only beauty and sexiness will maintain your interest in the long run. Yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Need proof? Just look to Hollywood and these ugly old men who marry the beautiful starlets, only to grow tired of them a few months later. No amount of beauty can overcome sour character.

Look at the Bible. Best of all, look to the Bible. Read the book of Proverbs three or four times. Here is a whole book dedicated to young men, so read it and see what it says about choosing a wife. From beginning to end it will contrast the wise woman with the foolish woman, showing how the ideal wife is marked not by physical perfection but by the unfading beauty of godly character. Eventually you’ll find your way to Proverbs 31:30 and read “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Our God is a God of beauty and he rates physical attractiveness far, far below what Peter refers to as “the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4). If you choose beauty over character, you are a fool.

The reality is that physical beauty is attractive and wonderful and a reflection of God’s character, but in this world it is also fleeting and fading. You may marry a woman who is physically perfect in every way, be she is only ever one illness or disease or accident away from disfigurement. Then only character will remain—character that may be sweet and joyful, or character that may grow bitter and resentful.

Does physical attractiveness have any function in marriage? Sure it does. It matters. But it matters very, very little in comparison to character. Here’s the rub: If you cannot be attracted to beautiful character, you won’t remain attracted to physical beauty. So should you keep pursuing that godly young woman who just isn’t attractive enough for you? My concern isn’t for you, it’s for her. I wouldn’t advise you to stop pursuing her, but I might advise her to run away from you!