Captivating by Stasi Eldredge – Chapter 2

I could relate to many of the things written in this chapter. Like the comment “I feel like a household appliance.” You know, we take these things for granted but when they are gone, we replace them right away. I have to keep remembering that. Even though I feel like my contributions to this family are taken for granted, I am in many ways irreplaceable, or at least I know that I would NEED to be replaced. LOL That means I am important.

“She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master’s finishing touch.” Wow! You know, I learned a few years ago that  there is a difference between the words used to say that God made man and God made woman. Here’s how the commentary of Gill puts it:

“She was not “created” as things were, out of nothing, nor “formed” as Adam was, out of the dust of the earth, being in the same form as man; but “made” out of refined and quickened dust, or the flesh and bones of man, and so in her make and constitution fine and lovely; or “built” (n), as the word signifies, which is used, because she is the foundation of the house or family, and the means of building it up: or rather to denote the singular care and art used, and fit proportion observed in the make of her: ”
I don’t know, it just kind of strikes me that, as I am a woman, I received a special touch from God in his design of me. I think we take for granted or put down who we are, what power we have, and what are purpose is.

“Most women define themselves in terms of their relationships, and the quality they deem those relationships to have. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Or, I am alone.” I thought how true this is also. And again, when we feel this way, we tend to try to push it aside, but just think, like they said, “This is not a weakness in women – it is a glory. A glory that reflects the heart of God. … The vast desire and capacity a woman has for intimate relationships tells us God’s vast desire and capacity for intimate relationships.” So when we have feelings that come for relationships or lack of them, we should stop to think, “Have I made God feel this way by something I have done?” “Am I putting enough into my relationship with God?” After all, “Christianity changes dramatically when we discover that it, too, is a great romance.” It so is!

I can see where this statement is true, “That longing in the heart of a woman to share life together as a great adventure – that comes straight from the heart of God, who also longs for this.” But that leads me to a question, “Why is that longing so often unfulfilled?” I guess it is all because of the fall. I guess that is the part of the curse where it says, “Yet your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.” We are cursed with that desire. Hmmm, another thought just hit me, I guess that is how God feels now too. If Eve hadn’t eaten that apple, he would not have had that longing because he would have been able to walk with us like he did them in Eden. But because of the fall, it separated us from God and now he too, has to experience that longing because he longs for everyone to come to him, and all you have to do is look around and see that is not happening.

The world wants to make beauty all about what you look like, what your body looks like. And the church wants to make beauty all about your character, the things you do. But beauty is really the “essence” of God. The world has missed that beauty is more than skin deep. But the church has missed that there is a look to beauty and it is in the eye of the beholder. The church has missed the fact that when you look outside at nature, God has given us so much beauty to see, it isn’t just about the character of something. Like they said on page 34, “Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful.” If you have an inner beauty, you will also have an outer beauty no matter what size or shape you are. That is when you are truly beautiful and expressing the essence of God.

Then as I read on, they describe beauty in  ways that we do not normally think of when we think of beauty. Beauty is powerful, because it matters. Beauty speaks it answers questions about God, it says – all shall be well. Beauty invites, it captures you; you want to sit down and just drink it in. Beauty nourishes, it offers life. Beauty comforts, it sooths the soul. Beauty inspires, it lets you know that life can be better. Beauty is transcendent, it speaks of heaven to come, when all shall be beautiful and draws us to God.

Then they say, all these things are especially true when we experience the beauty of a woman – he eyes, her form, her voice, her heart, her spirit, her life.

So then I thought, the world AND the church are missing the fact that physical beauty speaks something other then sex; invites more than sex; nourishes and comforts and inspires and transcends. Outward beauty is so connected to sex – a bad thing. The world misses that you don’t have to be a perfect size to be physically beautiful, we are all God’s creation and design and therefore we are beautiful just in being. The church is missing that beauty is more than what you do for other’s to see. Some of the people who are the best workers in church are hurting inside. Many churches also discourage looking good on the outside because they are afraid of what it invites, but God intended us to be beautiful, to look good, just like all his other creations on earth.

Sooo, there is more to beauty than meets the eye. We shouldn’t encourage someone to be perfect physically and yet be ugly on the inside. We shouldn’t encourage someone to be plain, or unconcerned with themselves physically and yet have great character. True beauty can’t be just physical nor just character. True beauty comes from the inside and manifests itself on the outside. We are the image bearer of God.

Notes I took

  • What Eve Alone Cane Tell – Rather than asking, “What should a woman do – what is her role?” it would be far more helpful to ask, “What is a woman – what is her design?” and, “Why did God place Woman in our midst?” We must go back to her beginnings, to the story of Eve. Even though we might have heard the story before (we have told it many times), it bears repeating. We clearly haven’t learned it’s lessons – for if we had, men would treat women much, much differently, and women would view themselves in a far better light. So let us start there – with light. with the dawn of the world.
  • The Crown of Creation – Creation in its early stages begins like any great work of art – with uncut stone or a mass of clay, a rough sketch, a blank sheet of music. “Formless and empty” as Gen 1:2 has it. The God begins to fashion the raw materials he has made, like an artist working with the stone and sketch or page before him. Light and dark, heaven and earth, land and sea – it’s beginning to take shape. With passion and brilliance the Creator works in large, sweeping movements on a grand scale. Great realms are distinguished from one another and established. Then he moves back over them again for a second pass as he begins to fill in color, detail, finer lines. (Gen 1:11, 14, 20.)

    Forest and meadow burst forth. Tulips and pine trees and moss-covered stones. And notice – the masterpiece is becoming more intricate, more intimate.  … From water and stone, to pomegranate and rose, to leopard and nightingale, creation ascends in beauty. … Then something truly astonishing takes place. God sets his own image on the earth. He creates a being like himself. He creates a son. “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7)

    It is nearing the end of the sixth day, the end of the Creator’s great labor, as Adam steps forth, the image of God, the triumph of his work. He alone is pronounced the son of God. Nothing in creation ever comes close. … Truly, the masterpiece seems complete. And yet, the Master says that something is not good, not right. Something is missing and that something is Eve. (Gen 2:21-23)

    She is the crescendo, the final, astonishing work of God. Woman. In one last flourish creation comes to a finish not with Adam, but with Eve. She is the Master’s finishing touch. … Eve is breathtaking.

    Given the way creation unfolds, how it unfolds, how it builds to even higher and higher works of art, can there be any doubt that Eve is the crown of creation? Not an afterthought. Not a nice addition like an ornament on a tree. She is God’s final touch, his piece de resistance. She fills a place in the world nothing and no one else can fill. Step to a window, ladies, if you can. Better still, find some place with a view. Look out across the earth and say to yourselves, “The whole, vast world is incomplete without me. Creation reached its zenith in me.

  • What Does Eve Speak to Us? What can we learn from her? God wanted to reveal something about himself, so he gave us Eve. When you are with a woman, ask yourself, what is she telling me about God? It will open up wonders for you.

    First, you’ll discover that God is relational to his core, that he has a heart for romance. Second, that he longs to share adventures with us – adventures you cannot accomplish without him. and finally, that God has a beauty to unveil. A beauty that is captivating and powerfully redemptive.

  • Eve is created because things were not right without her. Something was not good.  … To be specific, what was “not good” was the fact that the man was “alone.” “It is not good for the human to be alone, I shall make him a sustainer beside him.” (Gen 2:18) … Women care more about relationships than just about anything else. … Most women define themselves in terms of their relationships, and the quality they deem those relationships to have. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend. Or, I am alone. I’m not seeing anyone right now, or my children aren’t calling, or my friends seem distance. This is not a weakness in women – it is a glory. A glory that reflects the heart of God.
  • God’s Heart for Relationships – The vast desire and capacity a woman has for intimate relationships tells us of God’s vast desire and capacity for intimate relationships. In fact, this may be the most important thing we ever learn about God – that he yearns for relationship with us. (John 17:3) The whole story of the Bible is a love story between God and his people. He years for us. He cares. He has a tender heart. (Isa 49:14-15, 18; Jer 24:7; Matt 23:37)

    After years of hearing the heart-cry of woman, I am convinced beyond a doubt of this: God wants to be loved. He wants to be a priority to someone. How could we have missed this? From cover to cover, from beginning to end, the cry of God’s heart is, “Why won’t you choose me?” IT is amazing to me how humble, how vulnerable God is on this point. “You find me,” says the Lord, “when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer 29:13). In other words, “Look for me, pursue me – I want you to pursue me.” Amazing.

    Can there be any doubt that God wants to be sought after? The first and greatest of all commands is to love him (Mark 12:29-30, Matt 22:36-38). He wants us to love him. To seek him with all our hearts. A woman longs to be sought after, too, with the whole heart of her pursuer. God longs to be desired. Just as a woman longs to be desired. This is not some weakness or insecurity on the part of a woman, that deep yearning to be desired. … God feels the same way. (Luke 10:42)

    Life changes dramatically when romance comes into our lives. Christianity changes dramatically when we discover that it, too, is a great romance. That God yearns to share a life of beauty, intimacy, and adventure with us. “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer 31:3). This whole world was made for romance – the rivers and the glens, the meadows and beaches. Flowers, music, a kiss. But we have a way of forgetting all that, losing ourselves in work and worry. Eve – God’s message to the world in feminine form – invites us to romance. Through her, God makes romance a priority of the universe.

    So God endows Woman with certain qualities that are essential to relationship, qualities that speak of God. She is inviting. She is vulnerable. She is tender. She embodies mercy. She is also fierce and fiercely devoted. As the old saying goes, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That’s just how God acts when he isn’t chosen. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god!” (Ex 20:5). A woman’s righteous jealousy speaks of the jealousy of God for us.

  • An Adventure to Share – While Eve has  a glory for relationship, that is not all she is essential for. Back in Genesis, when God sets his image bearers on the earth, he gives them their mission. (Gen 1:26-28).

    Call it the Human Mission – to be all and do all God sent us here to do. And notice – the mission to be fruitful and conquer and hold sway is given both to Adam and to Eve. “And God said to them …” Eve is standing right there when God gives the world over to us. She has a vital role to play; she is a partner in this great adventure. All the human beings were intended to do here on earth – all the creativity and exploration, all the battle and rescue and nurture – we were intended to do together. In fact, not only is Eve needed, but she is desperately needed.

    When God creates Eve, he calls her an ‘ezer kenegdo’. “It is not good for a man to be alone, I shall make him [an ezer kenegdo]” (Gen 2:18). Hebrew scholar Robert Alter, who has spent years translating the book of Genesis, says that this phrase is “notoriously difficult to translate.” The various attempts we have in English are “helper” or “companion” or the notorious “help meet.” Why are these translation so incredibly wimpy, boring, flat … disappointing? What is a help meet, anyway? What little girl dances through the house singing, “One day I shall be a help meet?” Companion” A dog can be a companion. Helper? Sounds like Hamburger Helper. Alter is getting close when he translates it “sustainer beside him.”

    The word ezer is used only twenty other places in the entire Old Testament. And in every other instance the person being described is God himself, when you need him to come through for you desperately (Deut 33:26, 29; Ps 121:1-2; Ps 20:1-2; Ps 33:20; Ps 115:9-11) Most of the contexts are life and death, by the way, and God is your only hope. Your ezer. If he is not there beside you … you are dead. A better translation therefore of ezer would be “lifesaver.” Kenegdo means alongside, or opposite to, a counterpart.

    You see, the life God calls us to to is not a safe life. Ask any of the friends of God from the Old Testament. Ask any of the friends of God in the New Testament. God calls us to a life involving frequent risks and many dangers. Why else would we need him to be our ezer? You don’t need a lifesaver if your mission is to be a couch potato. You need an ezer when your life is in constant danger.

    The longing in the heart of a woman to share life together as a great adventure – that comes straight from the heart of God, who also longs for this. He does not want to be an option in our lives. He does not want to be an appendage, a tagalong. Neither does any woman. God is essential. He wants us to need him – desperately. Eve is essential. She has an irreplaceable role to play. And so you’ll see that women are endowed with fierce devotion, an ability to suffer great hardships,  a vision to make the world a better place.

  • Beauty to Unveil – Beauty is essential to God. No – that’s not putting it strongly enough. Beauty is the essence of God. The first way we know this is through nature, the world god has given us. Scripture says that the created world is filled with the glory of God (Isa 6:3). … Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. … But in order ot make the matter perfectly clear, God has given us Eve. the crowning touch of creation. Beauty is the essence of a woman. We want to be perfectly clear that we mean both a physical beauty and a soulful/spiritual beauty. The one depends upon and flows out of the other. …
  • After days of looking at maybe a thousand pieces of art, we had not seen one painting devoted to the beauty of the naked masculine form. Not one. (Granted, there are a few examples down through history .. but only a few.) However, the beauty of Woman was celebrated everywhere, hundreds of times over in paintings and sculptures. There is a reason for this. For one thing, men look ridiculous lying on a bed buck naked, half-covered with a sheet. It doesn’t fit the essence of masculinity. Something in you wants to say, “Get up already and get a job. Cut the grass. Get to work.” For Adam is captured best in motion, doing something. His essence is strength in action. That is what he speaks to the world. He bears the image of God, who is a warrior. On behalf of God, Adam says, “God will come through. God is on the move.” That is why a passive man is so disturbing. His passivity defies his very essence. It violates the way he bears God’s image. A passive man says, “God will not come through. He is not acting on your behalf.”
  • On the other hand, and bear with us a moment, Eve just doesn’t look right in a scene of brutal combat, or chopping a tree down. From time immemorial, when artists have tried to capture the essence of Eve, they have painted her (or photographed her, or sculpted her) at rest. There is no agenda here, no social stigmatizing or culture pressure. This is true across all cultures and down through time. What have the artists seen that we have not? Eve speaks something differently to the world than Adam does. Through her beauty.
  • Why beauty matters – Beauty is powerful. It may be the most powerful thing on earth. It is dangerous. Because it matters. Let us try and explain why.

    First, beauty speaks. … And what does beauty say to us? Think of what it is like to be caught in traffic for more than an hour. Horns blaring, people shouting obscenities. Exhaust pouring in your windows, suffocating you. Then remember what it’s like to come into a beautiful place, a garden or a meadow or a quiet beach. There is room for your soul. It expands. You can breathe again. You can rest. It is good. All is well. … That is what beauty says, ‘All shall be well.’

    This is what it’s like to be with a woman at rest, a woman comfortable in her feminine beauty. She is enjoyable to be with. She is lovely. In her presence your heart stops holding its breath. You relax and believe once again that all will be well. And this is also why a woman who is striving is so disturbing, for a woman who is not at rest in her heart says to the world, “All is not well. things are not going to turn out all right.”

    Beauty also invites. Recall what it is like to hear a truly beautiful piece of music. The same is true of a beautiful garden, or a scene in nature. You want to enter in, explore, partake of it, feast upon it. We describe a great book as “captivating.” It draws you in, holds your attention. You can’t wait to get back to it, spend time with it. All of the responses that God wants of us. All of the responses a woman wants too. Beauty invites.

    Beauty nourishes. It is a kind of food our souls crave. A woman’s breast is among the loveliest of all God’s works, and it is with her breast that she nourishes a baby – a stunning picture of the way in which Beauty itself nourishes us. In fact, a woman’s body is one of the most beautiful of all God’s creations.

    Beauty comforts. There is something profoundly healing about it. Have you ever wondered why we send flowers to the bereaved ? In the midst of their suffering and loss, only a gift of beauty says enough, or says it right.

    Beauty inspires. A teacher in the inner city explained to us why he insisted on putting a fountain and flowers in the courtyard of the building. “Because these children need to be inspired. they need to know that life can be better.” Beauty inspires.

    Beauty is transcendent. It is our most immediate experience of the external. Think of what it’s like to behold a gorgeous sunset, or the ocean at dawn. … We yearn to linger, to experience it all our days. Sometimes the beauty is so deep it pierces us with longing. For what? For life as it was meant to be. Beauty reminds us of an Eden we have never known, but somehow know our hearts were created for. Beauty speaks of heaven to come, when all shall be beautiful. It haunts us with eternity. Beauty says, ‘There is a glory calling to you.’ And if there is a glory, there is a source of glory. What great goodness could have possibly created this? What generosity gave us this to behold? Beauty draws us to God.

  • All these things are true for any experience of Beauty. But they are especially true when we experience the beauty of a woman — her eyes, her form, her voice, her heart, her spirit, her life. She speaks all of this far more profoundly than anything else in all creation, because she is incarnate; she is personal.
  • Beauty is, without question, the most essential and the most misunderstood of all of God’s qualities – of all feminine qualities too. We know it has caused untold pain in the lives of woman. But even there something is speaking. Why so much heartache over beauty? We don’t ache over being geniuses, or fabulous hockey players. Women ache over the issue of beauty – they ache to be beautiful, to believe they are beautiful, and they worry over keeping it if ever they can find it. … A woman knows, down in her soul, that she longs to bring beauty to the world. She might be mistaken on ho (something every woman struggles with), but she longs for a beauty to unveil. This is not just culture, or the need to “get a man.” This is in her heart, part of her design.
  • But Why a Beauty to Unveil? – One of the deepest ways a woman bears the image of God is in her mystery. By “mystery” we don’t mean “forever beyond your knowing,” but “something to be explored.” “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter.” says the book of Proverbs, “to search out a matter is the glory of kings” (25.2). God yearns to be known. But he wants to be sought after by those who would know him. He says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). There is dignity here; God does not throw himself at any passerby. he is not harlot. If you would know him you must love him; you must seek him with your whole heart. This is crucial to any woman’s soul, not to mention her sexuality. “You cannot simply have me. You must seek me, pursue me. I won’t let you in unless I know you love me.”
  • Is not the Trinity a great mystery? Not something to be solved, but known with ever-deepening pleasure and awe, something to be enjoyed. Just like God, a woman is not a problem to be solved, but a vast wonder to be enjoyed. This is so true of her sexuality. Few woman can or even want to “just do it.” Foreplay is crucial to her heart, the whispering and loving and exploring of one another that culminates in intercourse. That is a picture of what it means to love her soul. She yearns to be known and that takes time and intimacy. It requires an unveiling. As she is sough after, she reveals more of her beauty. As she unveils her beauty, she draws us to know her more deeply. Whatever else it means to be feminine, it is depth and mystery and complexity, with beauty as it’s very essence. Now, lest despair set in, let us say as clearly as we can:
    Every woman has a beauty to unveil.
    Every woman.
    Because she bears the image of God. She doesn’t have to conjure it, go get it from a salon, have plastic surgery or breast implants. No, beauty is an essence that is given to every woman at her creation.
  • It is very important for you to pause just now and ask yourself, ‘What did I hear them say?’ We did not say that a woman is prized only for her good looks. We did not say a woman is here merely to complete a man, and therefore a single woman is somehow missing her destiny. What we said was, first, that Eve is the crown of creation. There is something uniquely magnificent and powerful about a woman. We tried to reveal the immeasurable dignity, the holiness of your feminine heart by showing that it is God who longs for Romance; it is God who longs to be our ezer; it is God who reveals beauty as essential to life. You are the image bearer of this God. That is why you long for those things too. There is a radiance hidden in your heart that the world desperately needs.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s