She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes
—“She Walks in Beauty,” Lord Byron
Why do our brains latch onto certain things we’ve learned and drop others like they’re stolen property and the FBI just walked up?
It would probably be useful if I could remember the exact order of the steps in CPR just in case I ever need that rather important information one day, or if I could recall the way to calculate the hypotenuse of an obtuse triangle.
Actually, no. It’s never going to be necessary for this non-math girl to know that. Ever.
Baseball? French? WWII history? Cooking? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? All yes.
“She walks in beauty”
That poem by Lord Byron (George Gordon) has stayed with me, not just in my brain but also in my heart, perhaps because I didn’t memorize it for a class but rather had it seep into my spirit like a linguistic soaker hose from reading and rereading it over all my college years when I first stumbled on those captivating words.
What was she like, this woman who inspired the poem?
She comes to mind as grace and goodness with an almost ethereal quality, like the personification of the North Star in the movie adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in the Narnia series.
Is she even real, this subject of Lord Byron’s admiration, or is he merely musing over what the ideal woman is?
As the years pass and experiences deepen the rivers of my soul and my eyes see layers beneath what people clean up and show to the world, this woman looks different to me.
Who is she?
She is indeed real. I have met her, seen her up close. I have walked hard roads with her. I have prayed with her and for her, and yet somehow she is always the one who is ministering to me.
She is the new mama who has never been so sleep-deprived in her life and yet sings of God’s goodness while she rocks her colicky newborn to sleep.
She is the mom of many kids who are all young and close in age but with very different needs and whose husband travels all the time. She knows how easy it would be just to let one day slip into the next with the only purpose being laundry and makeshift meals, and yet she finds little moments and sacred ways to teach her kids to look for Jesus and find his good, his wonder, his light.
She is the woman whose husband is broken and whose marriage is not what she dreamed as a spouse or a parent, but she teaches her children about their heavenly Father who loves them and is always, always there for them, the one who will never forsake them or her. She prays daily, sometimes hourly for Jesus to redeem her shattered situation.
She is the one doing battle for her kid against physical and emotional issues that the world doesn’t often stop to see but that she does, committing her time and energy to being the noticer of all, the needs-meeter of all, the nurturer-warrior who carries Christ in her heart on every draining day. When she is at her most vulnerable, she sings hymns of praise to the one who knows what it is to ache over an agonizing child.
She is the former athlete whose adult body has taken a turn for the worse and every day brings severe physical pain, and yet she thanks God for the blessings she knows she has.
She is the mama who lost her temper at her precious child, her gift from God, who uses that moment to apologize and seek forgiveness and ask the Holy Spirit for his help and guidance rather than give the enemy a foothold where he can work his soul destruction and keep her off course.
She is the one whose husband is the love of her life and together they are facing huge financial struggles, and yet they have committed to tithe because they love the Lord and have committed to walk in obedience, trusting him to provide for their needs.
She is my grandmother, whose heart was broken by the very early death of her beloved husband, widowing her at twenty-nine, leaving her to fill the roles of mama, daddy, and provider at a time when most women didn’t work outside the home. She loved deep and true and exuded grace everywhere she went because she daily sought her Maker’s face. She was a Proverbs 31 woman.
She is the woman who has heard for years on podcasts and read for years on blogs that: She. Is. Enough. But she knows that’s a lie we tell ourselves to feel better, to emphasize worldly self-sufficiency over obedient holy release.
We are not enough, but he is
Each one of these women knows down to her toe bones that she is not enough on her own, that her strength lies in the Lord’s goodness. That, my friends, is as it should be.
Because when we know we are not enough, we can more easily surrender to our God who is. What he does in our lack and in our missteps showcases not only his might but also his light, something this world so desperately needs.
The God who told Paul that his power is made perfect in Paul’s weakness is saying the same thing to us today (2 Corinthians 12:19).
The Lord who provided the ram in the thicket so that Abraham would not have to sacrifice his only son is exactly the one who sacrificed his own son so we could be in an eternal relationship with him, if only we accept that gift, that beautiful offering, no matter what parenting mistakes or other absurd decisions we’ve made in the past (or even just this morning) (Genesis 22:13–14).
The Messiah who saw—really saw—the woman at the well is exactly the One who sees us when we crumble in the corner after messing up royally as parents, siblings, spouses, or friends and offers us the grace of forgiveness and a divine roadmap going forward (John 4:1–39).
He is the Father waiting on the porch for the return of the Prodigal (Luke 15:11–32). Yes, no matter what we have done or how long it has been since we have turned to him.
He is the Shepherd who is so acutely aware of his flock and loves them each so deeply that he would leave the ninety-nine to find the one (Luke 15:1–7). Yes, even you, even me.
He is the One who called out to his Father in the midst of his deepest pain and knew his Father heard him and was with him always (Matthew 26:36–46).
He is the One who meets us where we are and yet loves us enough not to leave us there.
He is the Father who provided manna, daily food, to the Israelites when they had no other source of nourishment in the desert—daily provision as a tangible verification of his promise never to forsake them (Exodus 16).
He is the One who is all-sufficient, all-knowing, all-powerful. He meets us in our muck, and, if we let him, he cleans us up. He calls us his beloved. His love never fails (Psalm 136:13).
We are most able to be women who walk in beauty when we walk with our heavenly Father because he made us, he called us, and he has a purpose for us.
He is the “enough” that the wisest “she walks in beauty” type of woman knows she is not.
She who walks in beauty knows whose she is
The woman who walks in true beauty puts into practice the knowledge that she is the Lord’s before she can be anyone else’s.
She is a living canvas for him—yes, even (maybe especially?) in the face of the hard.
He is from everlasting to everlasting, the God who redeems (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 44:22).
Worthy of our surrender to him indeed.
The most beautiful tapestry
Lord Byron had a way with words. In this poem, he paints a most intriguing portrait. But the one who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith is the true writer (Hebrews 12:2).
It is up to us to hand him our scraps and let him weave the best tapestry so that we can leave an imprint of his glory for the world to see, like the beautiful image at the end of Lord Byron’s poem:
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Amen and amen.