Yesterday was a hard day. I woke up battling a nasty case of pink eye. If you’ve never had pink eye, I don’t recommend it. Not only does the inside of your eye get all red and nasty – but the outside of your eye, your lids and underneath your eye, gets really swollen. It is, in a word, pretty. Not so much.
I stumbled out of bed to grab a washcloth to help as I attempted to pry my eye open in a way that would preserve at least a few of my eyelashes (yes, it sticks shut over night, another perk of the old conjunctivitis). I sat down on the couch with my new best friend– the cold compress, and flipped on the Today show, (which ironically I couldn’t actually see because I had a compress on one eye and no contact lens in the other). I was just getting comfy as they moved to the next segment where they were excited to make an announcement:
Today we are unveiling People Magazine’s most beautiful woman in the world. . . and this year’s winner is. . . Beyonce.
Ok, now, being real, I wasn’t expecting them to say my name or anything. But, let me assure you, when your face looks like that of a funky sea creature on one side, and completely normal on the other, the last thing you want to hear is Matt and the gang dribble on about how beautiful another woman is. Right?
If our “true beauty” is on the inside, then why is it so hard not to feel valueless when we feel we have seemingly little to offer on the physical beauty front? Maybe it’s just me, but feeling physically unattractive can really weigh me down some days, like yesterday.
The average woman thinks a negative thought about her body 13 times a day. That’s essentially one “my legs are too fat” or “my nose is too wide” every hour she is awake. I’d like to say that baffles me. But, it doesn’t. I’d admit to being average.
What’s even crazier is that “not pretty” feeling, on most days, can be inspired by just about anything: sickness, pregnancy, a bad hair day, a bad outfit day, or (my personal favorite) a bad bloat day. Then, on top of all that, we have to deal with aging. In my 20s I couldn’t conceive of how that would be a big deal. Now, I get it and I struggle.
I know, I know, good times with friends and family helped me “earn” these laugh lines. Sorry. That doesn’t make me like them any more. I’ll continue to be one of the millions of women who (collectively) spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to wage war against looking a day over 29.
So here’s the question: Why has God instilled in women an innate desire to be beautiful? I don’t think I’m alone. I think every woman I know wants to feel like she’s lovely, pretty, attractive.
And, perhaps of even greater importance, why has the true definition of beautiful eluded so many of us? Even those of us who claim to be Christ followers?
I recently read a story in Parade about a woman who was in a horrible plane crash, severely burned, and how, even through years of skin grafts, was still unrecognizable. Part of her story was how her tween-age daughter cried when she saw her and couldn’t bear to look at her. The younger children actually had to be “eased” back into a process of getting to know their mother –not because she had changed on the inside — but because she had changed so severely on the outside. I can’t imagine the pain this woman has suffered– not even taking into account the physical pain.
I know all the cliches. We say things like, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.” Christians sing songs about spiritual beauty. We say, shout, scream and rally behind a mantra that professes it’s internal, non-physical, beauty that counts. But, yet, many Christian women I know would be happy to name for you a celebrity they wish they looked like. They would only take half of a second to come up with what’s “wrong” about their bodies. They’d be a whole lot faster at writing a list of things they need to change on the outside (lose 10 lbs., firm triceps, thicker hair, etc…) then they would be at making a similar list of things they need to change on the inside (grow in patience, grow in humility, be filled with joy, etc…).
So, how then do we, in a healthy way, replace a desire for physical beauty with a desire for spiritual beauty? I use the clarifier, “healthy” because I think it is unhealthy to neglect our physical appearance altogether. I work at a gym for pete’s sake. Our bodies are a gift we need to take care of.
But, how do we learn to love (or for some just accept) who God made us on the outside in a healthy, Biblically sound way? And, how do we let Jesus come in and truly change our definition of what is beautiful?
I have some ideas… I hope you’ll follow this blog and engage in the conversation too!
Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. I Timothy 4:8
This post was originally posted in 2012.
© Lagron49 | Dreamstime.com – Beyonce Photo