He was outrageously handsome. And he knew it. Most of all, he was proud of his hair - a gorgeous mane of soft, fine locks that he cut once a year.
He was a charmer who knew how to manipulate others - especially his father, who adored him. He told people what they wanted to hear, even if it was wrong. And he had kisses for everybody.
For a while, this good-looking prince, named Absalom, was a national idol. But he used his influence to secretly plot a coup against his father, King David of Israel. Absalom wanted to be king. Eventually, though, the truth came out. Absalom fell victim to his own ego - and treachery. And the brokenhearted David was left weeping for his lost son (see II Sam., chaps. 14-19).
But this Bible story doesn't end there. King David gained from his crushing experience. He learned about the pitfalls that sometimes accompany human devotion - and about the all-consoling love of God. And he shared his insights in marvelous songs.
One of the songs often attributed to David in the book of Psalms warns against worshiping popular "idols." God alone deserves to be adored, it affirms. "Honour and majesty are before him," it sings, "strength and beauty are in his sanctuary" (Ps. 96:5, 6).
Real strength, real beauty, real love, come from God alone. They're holy, not mundane, things. They have to do with the way people think and feel in their heart, not the way they look or dress or wear their hair. They relate to the inner self - not to outer physique.
The fact is, beauty is a spiritual quality. It comes from knowing God - from making pure, unselfish Love your God. The more intimately you know Love as God (and God as Love), the more attractive you are - in the highest sense of the word. The more you shine with the love you're living. A marginal note in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, says succinctly, "Love imparts beauty." And the adjacent text explains, "Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light" (pg. 516).
So Love "bathes" you in beauty! Love paints you with a rainbow of heavenly traits - like insight, affection, artistry, delightfulness. Love puts poetry in your words, grace in your movements, warmth in your smile, light in your life. And nothing less does.
The beauty Love gives you is irresistible to others. It reaches to the core of what's best in them - and brings it to the surface. This makes them feel good about being around you. It helps them feel beautiful. It helps them find in themselves the spiritual, attractive individuality that God creates.
Today, more and more people are realizing what spiritual beauty is. True, 76 percent of adults in the United States believe physical attractiveness is important "in terms of happiness, social life, and the ability to get ahead." But the proportion of men and women who feel this way is, according to a recent Gallup poll, down from what it was in 1990, when some 84 percent of Americans felt this way.
And there have been interesting developments in beauty contests for women. Television viewership of these pageants has dropped significantly, and local beauty competitions have dwindled. This has prompted new criteria for evaluating contestants, with more emphasis on talents and ideals, and less on physique.
This trend is like a thought-shift I had in college. My friends and I went through a phase of aggressive dieting. We thought we looked terrific in our skinny shapes. But I got carried away with the diet, and became sick.
Finally, I realized how distracted I'd become with a strictly pounds-and-ounces view of myself. I'd made a god out of body size. And it was total joy to get back to the me - all the spiritual qualities - that God had made!
It feels so right to come home to who you really are - God's spiritual ideal. And this real you is as close as here and now. As beautiful as God's love.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society