20 April 2011

Of Re-defining Beautiful

My sister and I had a conversation once about how we do our best thinking in the shower - I suppose it has to do with the fact that this is the one place (for those of us "regular people" who aren't fancy enough for such things) where we are completely empty of technology or any means by which to distract our attention.  There is no T.V. to drown out our thoughts, no phone calls or books to read.  Just us, our shampoo, and our brains. 

Thus, yesterday, I was in my "think spot" gazing at my painted-purple toes and my mind began to wander.  Why do we, as women, feel the need to paint ourselves varying colors?  My toenails, granted, just make me happy - it's not that I think they're any more beautiful when they're purple or green or blue, just more fun.  But what about my face? 

Having done no technical research (I was in the shower, mind you, google wasn't exactly at my finger-tips), I pondered the realization that once upon a time someone decided a woman with long, dark eyelashes was beautiful.  So they created a way for all women to have luscious lashes.  And then someone else fell in love with the look of faintly rosed cheeks, so they created a way for all women to re-create this natural blush.  And so on until all women within a certain social standing were buying every product on the market in an attempt to emulate the ideal beautiful.  Have you ever noticed that the gorgeous ones out there, when all made-up according to beauty standards, tend to all look the same?  And then, in those ultra rare moments when we see one of these goddesses off of her mountainous throne, face stripped of its faux features, we see she looks nothing like how she is portrayed on a daily basis. 

And society has taught us this naked face is simply not beautiful, or, at least, not as pretty as it could be, if she would just enhance things a bit. 

Have I ever stopped before to consider what an insult this is to my Creator?  To tell him, every morning as I mourn my invisible eyelashes and strive to make them pop just a little with a small touch of mascara, that what He made wasn't good enough.  Good effort, God, but let me help you out a little; I'll show you what real beauty is.

What a slap in the face. 

He has made an array of beautiful masterpieces and we, the ignorant masses, are running in and throwing spray-paint on his work of art - feeling not good enough because we don't look like the person next to us, not realizing that it's the uniqueness that defines our beauty.

So, right there in that shower yesterday morning, I decided this daily offense to God had to stop.  I dried off and marched right past the drawer of my vanity (interesting name for our bathroom counter, isn't it?), not stopping for a little touch-up.  Believe me, it was a big step. 

This morning, though, knowing I was preparing to see all of my friends in Bible study and feeling as though my eyes just look so dull with those invisible lashes, I struggled just a little, with wondering if I really was beautiful all on my own - just the way God made me.  I realized just how much I hide behind the dark paint on those tiny hairs attached to my eyelids.  You wouldn't think such a minuscule mask would make much difference, but oh, how it does.

I was reminded of the verses in 1 Peter: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight" (1 Peter 3:3-4).  One of those verses us good Christian girls thinks is just so sweet and then we re-assure ourselves that as long as our inside is pretty, it doesn't hurt to make the outside pretty, too.  It's just a reminder, really, that we need to be sure we have that gentle spirit under our gold jewelry and fancy hair.  And I'm not saying that is necessarily wrong.  I'm just knowing the Spirit has convicted me, personally.

Because here's what happens.  We hide behind our outer beauty so it softens the blow a little when our insides aren't quite up to par.  When we rely entirely on our quiet and gentle spirit to be the beauty others see in us, when our outside isn't painted and our hearts have to speak of the natural beauty with which God has equipped us, there's a lot more pressure.

So here's to throwing out the crutch and living God's beauty - gentle and quiet on the inside, and beautiful the way He made me on the outside.

(This is the song that came to my mind as I pondered all the above sentiments.  Please disregard the animated vegetables for the time-being and allow the truth of the words to soak into your inner-most being.  God knit you together in your mother's womb - and He has called you beautiful.)


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