These two swept into my life a year and some months ago. Since first meeting Claire on an out of the blue run together, then spending a whole summer working on camp staff with Max, I got to know the two of them individually and then watch their worlds collide within the past few months. I love listening to Claire describe the first time she met Max. You might say she was SO not into him, but as the Lord often does, he began changing her heart to show her that His plans were not her own, and that He had even greater things than she could hope for. What I have seen repeatedly, especially as I've grown closer to Claire, is how her relationship with Max has formed (and continues to form) something more beautiful out of her. Her beauty was easy to see from the start, but it was beauty that she wore on the surface. Things are changing and already so different. The Lord has made her beautiful by His righteousness. This is something that is often forgotten. I see it in myself all the time; the truth that beauty lies on this skin, on this body, without me covering or dressing it up. I forget the truth of what Christ's death on the cross meant: that his doing so proved me to be completely worthy, and completely beautiful.
Not long ago Claire encountered this truth in a big way by the Lord revealing it in what one might call a "wide-awake dream". In the dream she saw herself and the idol she had made out of people's perceptions of her, how she had used makeup to create her self-worth, and made her inaccessible to the people around her because she was valuing beauty before relationship. But as is the case with our sin, the Lord does not love to see us stuck in it. He desires freedom for us. So in seeing her "idol" Claire was able to see the Lord's heart for her and how ready He was to remove this and bring in Truth and Life.
Step 1: Don't wear makeup to work. For one day.
This was a huge test of faith for Claire, but she didn't have to go at it alone. Myself and one of our amazing co-workers, Liz, joined us in not wearing makeup on one of the busiest work days of the week, Saturday. I can't speak for Liz, but I know this experience was an enormous blessing to me. It freed me from the thought that I was more valued at work when I looked prettier, or even thinking that it was the makeup that gave me "pretty-ness". This was liberated.
Continually Claire had been wearing less and less makeup and often none when she was around friends. Four days of no makeup was what preceded this engagement shoot, so when it came time to make these photos, there was a bit of confusion. Logically, you want to look beautiful for photos that you're making to remember a significant event in your life. And with the standard of engagement photos today every woman is expected to look flawless. But what happens to that standard when you learn that it's not the makeup that makes you beautiful, it's not even the way the couple looks that makes Engagement such a wonderful thing. It's their love for each other, and their promise to continue loving each other that is beautiful. So when I came into the house to meet Claire and Max before going to make these, I could see there was some unrest in Claire for putting the makeup on for the shoot. But what else was she supposed to do? We decided the solution was to go out and make the photos with her face "made-up" since, after all, there's nothing wrong with wearing it. The issue is only when it becomes the thing that defines where one's beauty is. So, we would go make those, and when felt we'd gotten a few good "Save the Date" worthy photos, we would come back to the house, Claire would wash the makeup off, and we would continue with the shoot as she bore her natural skin.
And they were beautiful. As you'll see, Claire is just as beautiful, if not more, in the later photos. I can tell you from being there when these were made, that Clair's whole countenance changed after we came back to the house to wash off. There was joy there that wasn't there before, and freedom. Such freedom.
So while these photos do celebrate the fact that Clair and Max are walking towards marriage, ring on hand, they also signify something even greater that the Lord has shown (and continues to show) His daughter Claire. Let's celebrate.