Have you ever stood in front of the mirror pondering over grey hairs and wrinkles? I have. My mom used to tell me “beauty is only skin deep, pretty is as pretty does…”.
There is only nine years between me and my youngest sister. And being the eldest of five daughters, I heard “set an example for your younger sisters” a lot. My dad was in the Navy for 21 years prior to his ordination. And I can remember standing on the Naval dock in Hawaii waiting for his ship to come in after months at sea. It was always a special day and we made huge leis of brightly colored tissue paper at school to drape over the ship’s bow when it docked. I was a second grader in 1965. My mom got a new dress – black with a pleated skirt and rainbow colored belt. She was in her thirties then. I remember thinking how pretty she looked in it. It was just me and my three younger sisters at that time and my mom had us all dressed up in matching sailor dresses. Funny what we remember ~ they were little white dresses with blue trim. But in those days, my mom didn’t really need an excuse to dress us up. It was a nice time in my life.
The recent face transplant in France is a miracle! Or is it maybe, just uncharted waters in reconstructive surgery? For someone with disfiguring injuries it is a life changing experience. But for others, cosmetic surgery is about something else. It can even become an obsession or addiction. But why?
We all want to look our best. We care for our bodies with showers, lotions, clothing, exercise, eating, and the right amount of sleep (if you’re not a student anyway). We care for the way our bodies look with hair cuts, manicures, cremes, braces on our teeth, cosmetics, and foot baths. Granted, some of these things we do for comfort, but that is just another way of caring. Why? Because we love ourselves. We love others, and we want them to love us back. We want to live longer lives. We want to be healthy so we can get the most out of life. And we want to be happy.
So why does happiness have so much to do with the way we look? Why do some of us spend so much time in front of the mirror working on our faces, our hair, and our clothes? Is it really about how we present ourself to the world? Some of it, maybe. But a lot of it is how we feel when we look our best. And how we look says a lot about how we view ourselves and the world around us. You see it every day in one form or another. It may be a renegade teenager with multiple body piercings in gothic attire, someone wearing too much makeup, jewelry, or perfume. Another person might be too scantily clothed. Or maybe it’s something more “normal” like body waxing, permanents, and hair coloring. Whatever the reason, we all care for our bodies in a way that seems fitting to us.
I have a little mole under my nose. My mom used to tell me that it is a “beauty mark”. For many years, when I looked in the mirror it was the first thing I saw. And while most people never notice it, I never liked it. So a few years ago I had it removed. Well, bad pennies always turn up – it came back.
Beauty tends to be culturally defined. In Great Britian and England “less is more”, most women don’t wear much makeup. Some African cultures find-self inflicted scarring a thing of beauty. But how do we Americans define beauty? Unfortunately, we are a culture largely influenced by celebrity. We look to celebrity role models for direction in beauty, fashion, moral and ethical values, lifestyle, politics, and religion. And we allow our children to do the same! Think about it – sports and music celebrities, movies, and even cartoons! What are we doing? And what are we modeling as acceptable to our children? What are we condoning by doing nothing? Excessively expensive or inappropriate clothing? Eating disorders? Tatoos and body piercings? Plastic sugery? What’s next? It’s all culturally acceptable!
Indeed, the way we present ourselves is a reflection of who we are. For some, it is a reflection of who they’d like to be. Regardless, it’s easy to make an initial assessment about a person’s personality and character by their appearance. We all do it. Is anyone old enough to remember the book “Dress for Success”? It’s basically a how-to fake-it-til-you-make-it book for achieving “success” in the workplace. It implies that we can change things by the way we dress. I happen to think the book is shallow hogwash…. but that’s just me.
Maybe we need to rethink this beauty thing… I get a lot of emails from friends about what it means to be a “beautiful” woman. After reading the most recent one, I thought, “What is beauty as defined by Scripture”? I like Proverbs 31:30. It says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Or how about Proverbs 11:22? It says, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.” Wow ~ that kinda hit’s home, doesn’t it…. True beauty comes from within a person. It radiates through their eyes. Have you ever talked with someone without ever noticing what they were wearing? My favorite verse on beauty is 1 Peter 3:3 & 4. It says, “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.” That says it all. Doesn’t it?
We are made in the image of God. Genesis 9:6 “…. for God made man in his own image”.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made! Psalms 139:14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well”.
We are to honor our bodies as the temple of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?”
We are to present our bodies a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”. We are to be different from the world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
I know, it might sound like an awful lot of Law. But really it isn’t. Grace gives us freedom from the law. But we still have fruits of the spirit…