Linda Brooks Davis

Let’s Chat! About Beauty and Beholders

Beauty and Beholders

Beauty. Most of us can agree beauty is as subjective as beholders themselves.

What’s the origin of the well-known idiom, Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder? I looked it up. 

Irish romance novelist, Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, coined the idiom in her 1878 novel, Molly Bawn

We may apply this truism to the latest beauty pageant: “No! Not Miss Tall and Dignified! Miss Petite and Sassy should’ve won!”

Or to a “find” on Antiques Roadshow: “Egads! That piece of junk is worth more than the national debt!”

Memories of Beauty and Beholders

Which reminds me of living as a military family in Germany in the 1970s. Not long after arriving, we began hearing about American couples going “junkin’.” On those Wednesdays, German locals would set out on sidewalks any items they considered junk. And Americans flocked to them.

One couple might come home with a gorgeous 100-yr-old “shrunk”. (Think hutch on steroids!) Another, a finely carved, 150-yr-old grandfather or grandmother clock. And another, a set of generations-old hand-painted plates. To the locals, “old” meant “ugly”, but to Americans, the older, the more beautiful.

But that was before Antiques Roadshow debuted in 1979 and we learned the truth of a similar idiom: One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

A Family of Beholders 

No better illustration exists than this one from my family history.

My mother and father both came from impoverished backgrounds. Mother had two dresses–one for Sunday and another for every other day. Daddy finished high school at 16 and struck out on trains heading in the direction of one harvest or another, sending his paycheck home to help out.

When Mother and Daddy met, 16-yr-old Mother lived with her widowed mother and brother in an uncle’s barn. They would have lived in the uncle’s house, but there wasn’t an inch of space after the rest of the Great Depression-deprived family moved in.

Beauty in the Great Depression

When they married, Daddy was working for a local farmer for $5 per week. He borrowed $5 for his and his bride’s wedding clothing and paid his employer back $2.50 per week.

Daddy made a deal with his employer to live in an old farm house situated on a piece of land he worked. Some would call the house a shack. But considering where Mother came from, she called the old shanty a castle.

Beauty Reborn

Decades later, after Daddy was a landowner in his own right and had built Mother the brick home she always dreamed of, she took up oil painting. Their first home had deteriorated by then to nothing more than weathered clapboards on the verge of collapse, unlivable.

Mother decided she’d paint the old place the way it looked when she and Daddy claimed it as home—to preserve the truth about what it looked like. The two of them “worked” on the painting for months, angling their heads left and right, recalling details, Daddy noticing something not quite right, and Mother making an adjustment or two, adding a little something here or there, their memories guiding her hand. 

The above painting is the thing of beauty the two of them came up with.The reality, however, was something altogether different, to which the photo below attests. 

Beauty Goes Full Circle

You might say Mother was as subjective a beholder of beauty as you could find. But I wonder … Is that so bad? Consider this: Romans 3: 11-18 paints an ugly portrait of humankind.

“There is no one righteous, not even one … no one who understands … no one who seeks GodAll have turned away, they have together become worthlessthere is no one who does good, not even oneTheir throats are open gravestheir tongues practice deceitThe poison of vipers is on their lipsTheir mouths are full of cursing and bitternessTheir feet are swift to shed bloodruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes. (NIV)

However … Zechariah 2: 8 paints an altogether different picture:

“For this is what the Lord Almighty says [to you, His people]: ‘…  whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye …”

Beauty, Up Close and Personal

I love this photo of my grandson Braden when he was 3. When I look closely enough, I can see myself in his eyes. I’m so close to him, my love so intimate that it’s as if I’m a little person within his eyes. 

That’s the intimate picture Zechariah paints of God’s love for His pitted-with-flaws people. He holds us so closely … treasures us so deeply … we’re embedded—implanted— within Him … the apple of His eye.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that subjective view of me any day. I’m pitted with flaws, scarred, bruised, and covered in the scabs of sin. I’m every bit of the ugliness the apostle Paul lays out in Romans. Just as unrighteous. Willful. Bitter and despicable. Yet in God’s eyes, I’m … if not an apple, for sure I’m a peach! 

I’d be a fool to reject that kind of love.

~ ~ ~

Dear Lord, please give us eyes to see You as our Eternal and Holy Beholder
and ourselves and others as the Apple of Your Eye.
~ For Jesus’ sake

21 thoughts on “Let’s Chat! About Beauty and Beholders

  1. I left a post a couple of days ago, but it never appeared online, so I will try again 🙂

    What a wonderful post, Linda! I loved reading about your mother and father’s story and about their first home. What a gift she had for oil painting! I love the picture she painted of their first home, and then to see a comparison to what the home really looked like. It is interesting how each person’s perception of something determines the way they view it. I also enjoyed reading about Americans ‘Junkin’ in Germany in the 1970’s. What amazing treasures they found! I so enjoyed all the analogies you made about beauty and how it is perceived…very interesting! I loved how you wrapped it all up in how God views us. We are but filthy rags, yet God views us through the blood of Jesus Christ, and sees us as the apple of His eye….Truly a miracle! I am so thankful to have Jesus as my Saviour.

    1. Welcome, Alison! I’m sorry your comment didn’t show up last week. I’ll comb through Spam. That happens sometimes. 🤨 Thanks for letting me know. I really appreciate your thoughts.👏 Please come back. 💛

      1. Thanks, Linda. It was probably a fluke my comment didn’t post or an error on my part. I will definitely be back 🙂

  2. Linda, this was a lovely post filled with memories of your heritage past and present, along with the wonderful Word of God. I had heard about the Germans sitting the old out on sidewalks for whoever wanted it as they preferred the new. So thankful God sees the beauty in all of us despite our blemishes, imperfections, heartbreaks we cause, etc. but always loving us and calling out to us as He truly sees the beautiful individual He created in each one to share eternity with Him by following His plan of Salvation. God’s blessings and thank you for sharing.

  3. So interesting about the American and German view of old stuff or junk! We are going to an estate sale tomorrow hoping to find some interesting old ‘junk’.

  4. Wow! Deep and meaningful thoughts. I LOVE your mothers painting. I’m sure it has a lot of meaning for you. She is quite talented!

  5. Wow! Great post! Love the family history, and the painting is wonderful!! Your words are so encouraging and inspiring! Thank you!

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