The Gospel of Beauty and the Beast

The Gospel of Beauty and the Beast // Leslie Ann Jones

Way back in April I took the girls to see Beauty and the Beast, and I started writing this post the very next week, but summer happened, and this sat in the drafts folder for a very, very long time. Well, last month, Micah got the DVD for her birthday, and when we watched it, I found myself captivated all over again. (As a side note, did you know that it's on Netflix right now?)

The movie was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it to be, and each time the cast broke out in song, I felt the little girl inside me squealing with delight. But this post isn't about all the merits of the film (of which there are many) or a handful of questionable scenes.

This post is about the gospel.

As Belle stepped onto the dance floor in that famous ballroom scene, tears pricked my eyes. The familiar words to Tale as Old as Time filled the air, and I realized for the first time that Beauty and the Beast is far more than a fairy tale. It's more than a princess story, and it's more than a happy ending.

It's a gospel story.

I know, I know. I can practically see you rolling your eyes. But give me a minute (or five) to explain. The Beast is as terrible as they come. He's selfish and angry and has an awful temper. His cruelty banishes him to a wretched life in a frigid wasteland void of light, joy, and love.

It was a miserable existence.

And then he meets someone who calls him to account for his beastly nature. Belle sees him. She sees the hideousness of the curse and she does not turn away. Instead, she loves him, and that love changes him. It redeems him and transforms him and makes him new.

Aren't we all a little bit like the Beast before Jesus transforms us with his redeeming love?

We are just as monstrous as the Beast apart from Jesus. That's the effect of sin in our lives. It wrecks us. Destroys us. Leaves us in ruin. We are just as cursed, just as doomed as the Beast. Our hearts are a wasteland as cold and barren as the winter that surrounds his castle.

But God. 

"But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, ESV)

Did you catch that? God loved us while we were sinners. He loved us when we were knee-deep in the mess and muck of depravity. He loved us before we loved him back. He has seen us at our most unlovely, and he has not turned away.

Do you understand what it means for God to love you like that? It means that you can't scare him off. He knows you. He has seen the darkest corners of your heart. The ugly parts that you try to hide. He has plumbed the depths of your depravity. And he has not turned away. No. He sees you. He knows you. And he loves you even still. 

Though our sin is pervasive, it does not define us. There is no one too beastly—too wretched—for God's love. No sin too terrible. No secret too big. No one is beyond his reach. He sees past the ugliness of our sin to the heart that lies within. And when we finally surrender to the pull of his love, he breathes life back into our cold, barren hearts. The ugliness of the curse falls right off our shoulders. We are made new.

It's a tale as old as time itself. It's the story of the gospel.

"If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Cor. 5:17, ESV)

Until next time, grace and peace.


I hesitated to write this post because I know that the movie is controversial in a lot of Christian circles. I'm not saying that it's a direct parallel to the gospel. Only that it contains some redemptive elements that make for a breathtaking illustration of the curse of sin in our lives and the love that breaks its hold on us.

In our little family, we have chosen not to shy away from controversial books, movies, or topics. Do we shield our children? Absolutely. As much as possible...But as parents, we want to be the ones to shape the conversation when challenging issues arise. We want to weigh in on the issues. And most importantly, we want to help our children evaluate the messages of this fallen world against the timeless truth of Scripture. If we don't teach them how to do this, then who will? 


Five Things I Want My Daughters to Know

Five Things I Want my Daughters to Know // by Leslie Ann Jones

Parenting has never been easy, I know, but it seems extra challenging these days. This world seems intent on making our babies grow up too fast, and we're constantly pushing back against the messages they're taking in every day. As parents trying to raise children in a way that honors and points to Christ, it's our job to replace those messages with Truth.

They're growing up, and it's happening fast. Before long, they'll leave the safety of our home and venture out into the big, wide world, and these are the things that I want them to know deep, deep down in their hearts when they go.

 

1. You Are So Very Loved

More than anything, I want my girls to know that they are loved. They are loved by me. They are loved by their dad. They are loved by their grandparents. They are loved by their aunts and uncles. They are loved by their cousins. They are loved by their friends. They are loved by their church family. And, most importantly, they are loved by God. 

We all want to be loved (go ahead, cue the old school DC Talk); it's a God-given desire that's hard-wired into our systems. Our need to be seen, to be noticed, to be known, and to be loved is part of our design. God has made us to crave the very thing that he provides in endless supply.

God's love for us is a "Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love" (Sally Lloyd-Jones). He has seen us at our most unlovely, and, here's the kicker, he has loved us anyway. This is a great relief, because it means that his love for us isn't dependent on how good or funny or perfect or pretty or witty we are. It's dependent on his faithfulness. God loves us because he loves us. Period.

I didn't understand that kind of love until I became a parent, but now that I'm a mother, I can't imagine it any other way. With every lunch I pack, ponytail I fix, book I read, and bath I give, I am showing them what faithful love looks like. I love them when they are willfully disobedient and I love them when they behave like angels. Nothing they do could ever make me love them more—or less—than I already do. I love them because I love them. Period.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8, ESV)

 

2. Pretty Comes from The Inside

Every little girl, and grown woman for that matter, wants to feel pretty. My girls were barely walking when they began swishing their skirts and playing with my makeup in front of the mirror. 

"Do I look pretty, Mama?" is a fairly common question around here. And of course, the answer is always, "YES!" But whenever it arises, I have a follow-up ready: "Where does pretty come from?" They roll their eyes but answer me anyway, "Pretty comes from the inside, Mama." "That's right!" I answer. "Pretty isn't about how you look. It's about who you are."

I say it out loud, and I say it often, because I want them to know the Truth. It's not the dress or the lip gloss that makes them beautiful. It's the joy that makes their eyes sparkle and the kindness that softens their features. It's the confidence that comes from knowing that they're loved and the radiance that exudes from them when they pursue their passions. I could go on and on and on here, but you get the point.

Their beauty stems from the character that God is shaping within them—how they look on any given day has nothing to do with it.

"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight, is very precious." (1 Peter 3:3-4, ESV)

 

3. You Can Do Hard Things

A couple of summers ago, I spent every morning in the shallow end of the pool, trying to help our youngest daughter swim. The struggle was real, y'all. It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was quite exasperating. I knew that if she would just let go of her fear, she could master swimming, but she couldn't do it as long as she believed that she couldn't. So I taught her something else to believe instead. 

Here's the conversation we had about 6,839 times that summer.

"I can't do it, Mommy! I'm scared!"

"I know you are sweetie. But what else are you?"

"I am brave. I am tough. I am strong."

"That's right, sweet girl. You are. And what can you do?"

"I can do hard things."

"Yes. Yes, you can. I'll be right here beside you."

Before she could swim, she needed to believe both in her ability to do it and in my ability to help her. It took a lot of convincing and reassurance, but she eventually got there. And just so you know, she swims like a fish these days. She even got to compete on our little pool's swim team this summer, and she had a blast. Watching her swim 25 meters basically on her own made me so proud, because I knew exactly how much she had overcome to get there.

Here's the thing. Sometimes the tasks we face can be pretty daunting, even downright scary, but that doesn't mean that we can't do them. It just means that we might need to work a little harder, and maybe ask for some outside assistance, to get it done. The truth is that God sometimes gives us a task that we absolutely cannot accomplish on our own. We can only do it with a little perseverance and a lot of his help, and that's OK. Because when we are weak, he is strong.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)

 

4. Nobody's Perfect

I feel obligated to go ahead and add "except Jesus" to the end of this one because I know that some of you are thinking it. Hold your horses, though. I'll get there in a minute.

Because perfectionism is one of my biggest struggles, it breaks my heart to see it emerging in our oldest daughter. One word of correction or wrong answer on a test can send that child into a tailspin. I watch her striving and struggling to be the best, and when she inevitably fails (because that's life), devastation follows.

Now, I'm not saying that I don't want my girls to do their best or to work hard. Of course I do! But perfectionism takes a healthy desire to perform well and twists it into an unhealthy obsession with impossibly high standards. It's debilitating and exhausting and a burden that we were never meant to carry.

I want my children to learn how to fail, and to do it with grace. To know that they're not going to be the best at everything. They won't make a 100 on every single test. They will make mistakes. They will mess up. They will not win every game. And that's OK.

Because newsflash. We're human. We have limits. There are things that are simply beyond us. Only when we finally accept that Truth can we lean in to the grace that God gives us for this very reason. God does not expect us, nor does he ask us to be perfect, because he knows that it is beyond our capabilities. He is perfect, so we don't have to be. The sooner we accept it, the better.

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV)

 

5. Love is a Choice Worth Making

I don't know what it's like at your house, but in ours, this one is particularly challenging in the playroom, where fights constantly erupt over who gets to choose the game or play with the best Barbie. Selfishness, pride, and hurt feelings are the culprits behind most of our battles, and when they raise their ugly heads, we do our best to replace them with love.

Love doesn't always come naturally, but choosing to love—especially when we don't feel like it, or we think we've been wronged, or the other person doesn't deserve it—is always worth it. Sometimes love is a sacrifice that feels too big to make, but it's our best chance to show the world what Jesus is like. We love each other well so that others may see and know the love of God working in us.

It's important, y'all. We practice loving well at home in the hope that it bleeds over into our outside lives as well. We do this by...

  • Sharing our favorite things.
  • Choosing kindness instead of lashing out.
  • Giving grace and offering forgiveness.
  • Using words to build up rather than destroy.
  • Generously showing physical affection.
  • Spending time together.
  • Listening to one another.
  • Celebrating victories together.
  • Sharing in each other's pain.
  • Being good helpers.

These are small things, I know, but all together, they will transform your home into a place of peace, safety, and warmth. We want our home to be a safe haven not just for our girls, but also for anyone who walks through the door. For that to happen, it must be a place where love abounds.

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35, ESV)

 

As parents, it's our job to prepare our children for the world out there. We're getting there bit by bit. These five things are the foundation for all the other lessons we'll have to teach them along the way. We'll get to those eventually...for now, this is a good place to start.

Until next time, grace and peace.


Creating Margin When Life Overwhelms

Creating Margin When Life Overwhelms // by Leslie Ann Jones

Life has been busy lately. So. Busy.

Between teaching two Bible studies at church, helping plan the annual preschool fundraiser, battling strep throat in the house, washing (but not folding) the laundry, selling and delivering Girl Scout cookies, doing all. the. things. for Dr. Seuss' birthday week, sorting old clothes for consignment, acquiring new clothes in the appropriate sizes, and juggling soccer practice, softball practice, birthday parties, church, and school, all while keeping us fed and alive, I'm spent. 

There's just not much of me left to go around these days.

I'm telling you all of this so you'll know why things have been quiet around here lately. There's so much I want to share with you about what God is teaching me, but I simply haven't had time to sit down and let it all spill out.

There was a time when I would have run myself into the ground posting new content here each week while also trying to do everything else, but I've learned that I create my best work when there's a bit of margin in my life. I need time and space to breathe freely and listen closely before I can write words that convict and compel. I'm currently overwhelmed by life, and, at this moment in time, margin is hard to find. So, I've created some by giving myself permission to take a little blogging break. 

I think sometimes we women like to act like we have everything together, but behind the scenes we're falling apart. God forbid anyone find out that we're imperfect people. I don't want to be like that. I want you to know that I'm a real person with real struggles. My life isn't insta-perfect all the time—it's messy and rough around the edges and more than a little crazy.

I know I'm not alone in this. Nearly every mama I talk to struggles with The Overwhelm from time to time. It's normal and even necessary every now and then, but I think it's important to fight for the things that your soul needs. Even during busy seasons. For me, it's margin—empty space in my planner and quiet moments alone to simply be. No striving, no doing. Just me and God and a bit of stillness...and maybe a cup of coffee too.

What is it that your soul needs? What do you crave when life overwhelms? How do you create margin when things get crazy? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

And in case you were wondering, I'll be spending the time I usually spend writing preparing my heart and mind for teaching Known, an in-depth Bible study on the gospel of John to a group of local women.

Both the workbook and our weekly sessions are available online, and we would love for you to join us. You can access the Known workbook and weekly podcast at leslieannjones.com/known.

Thanks for bearing with me during this busy season! Hopefully I'll be back to posting regularly again soon...just not yet.

Until next time, grace and peace.


How Coffee Makes Me a Better Christian

On Coffee and Quiet Times. How preparing a cup of coffee each morning keeps my quiet times on track. (from Leslie Ann Jones)

When I discovered that the elementary school in our town starts at 7:30 a.m., I died a little on the inside. The early school day means that I have to rise before 6 a.m. to get our daughter up, dressed, fed, and ready by the time the bus comes by. 

Y'all. I just can't even describe how devastating this knowledge was to me. It's no secret that I'm not a morning person. Over the years, I've tried to get up "an hour earlier" than my kids, and I've failed every. single. time. I'm just not wired that way.

I immediately decided that if I had to get up before the sun, I needed a ritual—something to look forward to every morning. And I also needed some caffeine. In large doses. Which led me to the conclusion that I needed learn how to like coffee.

Dennis laughed at me and rolled his eyes when I told him my plan. He thought I was being a little ridiculous, but he supported my quest to find a brand of coffee that didn't make me gag (Lavazza, for the win, by the way), and he faithfully washes my little espresso maker when I leave it sitting in the sink. Because apparently I can't do regular coffee. Nope. That would be too easy. It's a homemade mocha latte for me every single morning.

Anyway. Back to the point. I knew that if I didn't have a tangible, physical reason to stay awake after the bus rolled away, I would make a beeline back to bed as soon as possible. But if I could manage to make the coffee before the bus came, then after it left, I would settle down in my chair with my coffee (usually in a Dwell mug), my Bible, and my journal to enjoy some quiet time alone with the Lord before I had to wake up the youngest for preschool.

I mean, I'm not going to waste the coffee. I just made it, for crying out loud. I'm 100 percent serious when I tell you that making a cup of coffee every morning has done more for my spiritual life than I ever imagined possible.

I feel a little silly telling you this because I'm a writer of Bible studies. I'm supposed to have this quiet time thing down by now. But the reality of my life as a stay-at-home mom sometimes runs me ragged, and the truth is that I like to sleep. A lot. And sometimes I want to sleep more than I want to spend time in the Word. The struggle is real. Am I right?

But y'all, here's the lesson I've been learning: Sometimes the spark we need to get us going is as simple as a cup of coffee, a pretty journal, or a friend to hold us accountable. There's nothing magical about the coffee, but the physical act of preparing it helps keep my quiet times on track. Maybe it could help you too. 

Until next time, grace and peace.


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