I was driving through a section of town this morning that I rarely occasion and noticed a new storefront. It's called Gold Teeth. That's right, teeth grill. At the old Caesar's Pizza site. My immediate reaction was to laugh out loud and think, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto the dental god...."
Yesterday, I noticed that a new picture of my niece has been posted and tagged on Facebook in which she is sporting a rather oddly-shaped lip ring on her lower lip. To my Philistine eyes, it look liked she had an ugly tick on her bottom lip.
I've been reflecting on what is our current age's fascination with self-mutilation as an expression of beauty. Gold teeth and lip rings and the like just don't exemplify beauty. No aesthetic rationalizing can possibly convince me otherwise.
At last weekend's Ignited by Truth Conference, Joseph Pearce, spoke passionately about the evangelizing power of Beauty. In an age where Truth is whatever one makes of it (relativism) and Goodness has been turned upside down (pursuit of self as the ultimate good), he said that Beauty still has the power to move people's minds and hearts to God.
When we see a sunrise, we are pierced by its beauty overcoming our jadedness. There is nothing that we can do to create a sunrise, it is entirely beyond our control. It is a truly hardened person who cannot be moved by the beauty of nature. Joseph Pearce talked about humility as a necessary ingredient for being moved by Beauty quoting some U2 lyrics: "If you want to kiss the sky, you better learn how to kneel..." Humility is hard. We naturally tend to prideful ways, embracing freedom as something unencumbered and unrestrained. Woe to anyone who stands in our way. Freedom of expression without regard for consequences is the a measure of having arrived.
Which brings me back to gold teeth and lip rings. After the shock value is attained, what then? I am left staring at my niece's lip thinking about the tick-like attachment that is there. Perhaps I need to work on being less judgmental. But I think of her life and the constant pursuit of happiness though never quite finding it. There is nothing particularly unique about her story other than it's the same story of too many of her generation: the ennui with life, in spite of all the trappings of wealth and consequence.
I wonder in what ways I, too, wear the spiritual equivalent of a lip ring, my self-mutilation that detracts from the Beauty of the imageness of Christ in me. Sin is mutilation. It mars however small it might be. I am looking forward to Lent with its austerity and simplicity. The Old Calendar with its three Sundays of pre-Lenten preparation is helping me sort through my own spiritual detritus.
What will I render unto God?