Broadman & Holman
NO FACE IS MUTE. It is either telling God’s story or its own. Some faces are too painful to look at. Some people are so scarred, burned, twisted, and broken, I can’t help flinching when I see them. It hurts just to look.
That’s often when I push myself to look deeper, not merely at the face but into it. The eyes—those “windows of the soul”—are a refuge from the scars and twisted flesh. And the eyes tell so much. They either communicate the love and compassion of God or glitter with a cold bitterness. The eyes reveal the allconsuming passion or pain.
Maybe that’s why I’ve never found it easy to look into the eyes of other people. It’s there we’re unmasked, revealed, and exposed.
Some things inside the human soul are too deep and dark to look at. The depth of depravity and evil can be overwhelming.
We turn away, afraid we might be swallowed by the horror. We withdraw not only from the sin but from the people still caught in its snare.
But God sees right through the horror and death to the soul still starved for life. He lifts a cup of cool water to fevered lips that have never known a moment’s relief. He offers the pure, unblemished Lamb for the monster of sin that has almost entirely engulfed them—the blood for the blackness.
Some turn away from the mercies of their Maker. Others fall before Him like thin-stemmed flowers bent double by a strong breeze. Crimson drops fall like life-giving rain on a field of poppies, and our sins are washed away. Love begins to tell His story through the works of our hands, the outpourings of our hearts, even upon the features of our faces.
The face is where we can see some of God’s glory, sometimes terrible in its beauty and in other moments a fierce fire in its tenderness.
After Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he wore a veil over his face because he shone with a holy radiance from God, and the people were afraid.
When sunlight floods the frame of a stained-glass window, the sudden brightness of colors is beautiful to behold. When God fills a face, it’s glorious. Holy. Like a bush burning but not consumed are some who have been wounded by the world and are being transformed by God into windows, through which His glory is revealed.
We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. . . . They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. -- Romans 1:21, 25 NIV
ONCE UPON A TIME there was Beauty. Beauty had a voice, being, and power. He was pure and good, true and faithful, but it was love that filled the form and person of Beauty. Because the nature of true love is unselfish, He longed to share it with someone. So Beauty created one in His own image, with soul and form, from the dust of a new earth. He created them, male and female, in His image. The image of Beauty.
Day and night there was intimate communion between Beauty and His handiwork. Man and woman were the crown of His creation. There was no lack of blessing Beauty bestowed on them. And all rejoiced.
But one day a deceiver who spoke things Beauty hadn’t said came into Beauty’s kingdom. Sadly, the man and woman believed the deceiver’s lies and began to question if Beauty loved them as completely as they first thought. They fell under a wicked spell and were changed forever.
Their communion with Beauty broken, man and woman tried to hide themselves from Him. In this they were also deceived, for nothing of their own device could cover their sin or hide them from the eyes of love. They were never beyond sight of Him who called them His own. Nevertheless, they fell from a place of glory and light into deep darkness.
They lost the knowledge of who they were and the intimate connection that had sustained them with the One who loved so perfectly, in whose image they were made. As time went by, they continued to move further from the truth of their existence, hiding from Beauty and from each other. They began to trust more in the wants and comforts of their flesh—and in the whispers of the deceiver.
Man and woman thought of themselves as little better than the creatures they were given stewardship over. Indeed, in time, they began to believe they were only creatures who by some twist of circumstance developed differently than their “cousins.” Yet many treated each other worse than the creatures beneath them. They sold their women for pleasure, sacrificed their babies on altars of fear and selfishness, maimed, and murdered.
At first, they sought to commune with Beauty in the way they had remembered. Later, as their memory of Beauty faded, the deceiver’s all-consuming darkness bent their longing toward worshiping the works of their hands. So they carved and cast, sculpted and painted, beauty from their own understanding, in their own image.
Their first idols were lavish, made with the best and brightest of their treasures. Glorious paintings and works of art, reminding them of who they were and where they came from. But without connection to the One who made them, nobility and virtue peeled off the soul of mankind like a snake’s discarded skin. Even the echo of Beauty began to fade from the idols man created for worship, as the race fell on its knees to crasser and lower gods—gods of treasure, pleasure, and power. Man groveled like a beast before them. His soul bowed and bent to the creature he’d become.
In the Disney version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, a young prince is transformed into a monster after his repeated unkindness to a powerful enchantress, who comes to his door disguised as a beggar. His kingdom and servants also fall under the shadow of her spell. Hidden under the teeth and claws of a terrible beast, the prince can be redeemed only by true love. But as the years go by, the prince despairs and his heart turns away from his humanity, and moving more toward the beast, he loses hope that he will ever be restored.
As the story unfolds, beauty is represented by a young woman named Belle. Belle’s father is lost in the forest and winds up at the beast’s castle. Unwittingly, he provokes the beast and is taken prisoner in his dungeon. Belle goes to the castle to find her father. Soon after, she discovers him locked up below in a prison cell. She also encounters the beast.
Repulsed by him but motivated by love and devotion for her father, she offers her life to the beast as ransom for her father’s. It is this unsolicited gift of sacrificial love that first awakens the heart of the beast, piercing the soul of the man imprisoned within. The beast is moved but treats her harshly because he doesn’t believe he can ever have any place in her heart. He can’t imagine that Belle or anyone else will ever see there is more to him than what he appears to be.
Nevertheless, Belle draws him out. She stirs the embers of his dying hope and blows on the sparks between them. And as he remembers his soul, he begins to hope once again for a deliverer. Beauty sees something within the beast. Though she can’t name it, she won’t stop pursuing it any more than God will stop pursuing His image in us. Beauty never loved the beast. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she loved the man trapped inside. God can never love our sin, but He loves us without beginning and without end. He sees us imprisoned within the very walls we constructed from our pain to protect us. He sees through our sin-encrusted souls to the beauty he created us to be. With His image indelibly stamped on us and the lie of the deceiver woven into our flesh, we wrestle and writhe between hope and despair, doubt and belief. But He who is perfect love will relentlessly pursue us to refine His beauty in us, until we believe and become.
Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is. 1 John 3:2