It happened again last week. This time it was an older gentleman at the doctor’s office. “You look so familiar,” he said, squinting his eyes and tipping his head slightly. From there the questions branched off into possible mutual friends, workplaces, or schools. This happens to me regularly. I look just like someone’s sister-in-law /college roommate/co-worker’s cousin. Inevitably, no connection is discovered and we part ways with a smile and a laugh.
This happens often enough to make me wonder: what about me seems so familiar to people? I’ve concluded it’s because I look so…well, average. Brown hair, blue eyes, average height and weight, quiet demeanor. I am not beautiful and I am not homely.
The reality is that the vast majority of us fall somewhere in the middle of the scale in the looks department. And although some of us have a common face, none of us are common on the inside. God has wonderfully and uniquely gifted each of us. But being average on the outside? I consider it, too, a gift. We are free of many of the expectations laid on those with beautiful faces. We are free to be known for who we are rather than what we look like. The key is to appreciate this freedom instead of measuring ourselves against the world’s cruel markers.
Like Israel’s first king, tall and handsome, or the stunning Queen Esther, we too often judge by appearances and crown our cultural kings and queens accordingly. We like our pastors young and trendy, our conference speakers lovely and thin. If a celebrity claims faith we put them on stage and sign them to a book deal. Our movie Jesuses are whole and healthy with plenty of hair.
The reality is that Jesus “had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”, Isaiah tells us. And what about the great Apostle Paul? Second century writing describes him as “a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked…”*
One of the best things my church’s women’s ministry does is to have someone share their testimony at our events. I am often stunned at what I hear from the ordinary women around me – women who quietly go about their everyday lives while harboring beautiful, compelling stories of God’s mercy. Why do we pander and scramble to hear the famous, successful and beautiful people speak, when God’s glory is just waiting to be displayed by the sisters and brothers around us?
Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” This is a reminder for all of us who avoid looking at ourselves in the mirror, no matter how we measure up to or fall short of the world’s standard of beauty. And this is also for those of us who overlook the ordinary people around us because we forget that every Christian carries a uniquely beautiful story within. Outer beauty always fades with time, but inner beauty can become more vibrant as we daily choose to reflect the love of God.
My church is a treasure house of incomparable stories just waiting to be told. I bet yours is too. Perhaps the next time we are tempted to look to a celebrity to validate our faith, we should shift our gaze instead to the people around us.
Because sometimes the common faces are the most beautiful of all.
*Harvard Theological Review https://doi.org/10.1017/S0017816000020435