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Beauty Is… Wonder | Joy Bethea


Photo C/O Janine Coleman

Joy is a writer, editor and wannabe florist who currently has home addresses in Virginia, Mississippi and Georgia. In her free time she’s either sailing, lost in the local bookstore or finding new ways to cook with cheese.

On my drives home during my senior year of college, I regularly pulled my blue Honda Civic off the side of the parkway to pick wildflowers. These stops were my own little secret—brief lulls in the no-nonsense schedule of a journalism student.  My days were packed with real world stuff—deadlines, staying current on the nuances of global news, and choosing a direction for my future.

As much as I loved my evenings of roadside flower foraging, they seemed like a frivolous indulgence. Until I realized that maybe God was as pleased by my wonder in a wildflower as in my desire to make a difference in the world.

Looking at my life with a sense of joy allowed me to cultivate beauty in the face of an uncertain future.

As I set time aside for wonder, a quiet yearning began fighting its way into my life. I was good at noticing and appreciating the ordinary beauty and uniqueness in the people and places around me.

Now, my deepest yearning was to be known and seen for my own beauty and uniqueness.

There were a couple of problems. First, being dyslexic had taught me to carefully avoid appearing unaware, my guard against looking stupid. Being hyperaware became a part of my identity: aware of the news and world events, aware of other’s feelings. It was exhausting.

The other problem was that I didn’t see anything particularly beautiful about myself.

This slowly surfaced as I talked with my therapist about my fears of dating. Romance doesn’t make logical sense. The stakes of rejection are high.  I can’t prepare for everything ahead of time.

My thoughts went from guarded to more specific…
To truly know me is to be disappointed in me.
I work so hard trying to be understandable to absolutely everyone.
I feel like too much effort, too confusing, and too complicated, and yet, not enough.

I wanted a bombproof strategy for limiting the risk of rejection. But he dug deeper into my life and gave me the opposite of a fool-proof plan.

He pointed out that going into a romance entirely aware was the most unromantic thing ever. And then he talked about mystery.

It is okay to be cared for even when I feel like a mess and can’t fully understand why someone finds me beautiful.

It is hard to value my own beauty when I’m working hard to make sense to the rest of the world.

In romance, there’s ebb and flow, closeness and distance, knowing and not knowing. The absence of mystery and wonder would leave romance without its magic.

Wonder gives hope to the struggle and mundane seasons of my life. It’s my response to being loved, being cared for, being seen and known and safe.

I choose to see the world with a swirl of curiosity, awe and delight

I can look forward to the mystery of an uncertain future because I can trust that I’m part of a bigger story, more intricate and far-reaching than I know.

I choose to see the world with a swirl of curiosity, awe, and delight—so I can accept beautiful gifts and difficult struggles as part of a process I can’t perfectly understand. Right now, anyway.




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