Friday night I was blessed to host the girl’s from our youth group in my home. There is something very special about young ladies. These teens are teetering between girlhood and womanhood. They long to be grown up, always looking forward to when they are older (Oh, how I remember those days!). I long to see them enjoy the moment they are in. This precious season of training and purpose that God has for them. They are all unique…all beautiful.
We spent a good portion of our evening completing a project. The girls looked through some magazines to find pictures of what they thought was beautiful. They were to pick out their favorite features on people – favorite lips, eyes, noses, hair, bodies, etc. With the pictures they found, they pieced together all their ideal features and shared with the group why they made their selections.
Each of them found different things beautiful. Some liked straight hair while others thought curly was more beautiful. Perfect bodies seemed to be a theme as the girls pieced their pictures together. Dark hair, blonde hair, blue eyes, perfect skin…these were all on the list. The word sexy entered the room a few times.
After everyone had the opportunity to share why they chose what they did, I asked these young ladies “Why is it that we can’t seem to find pictures of ourselves in these magazines? When I look I do not find my thighs, my hair, my skin. In fact I cannot find any normal person in these pictures. I find no imperfection in these pictures either, and yet when I see myself, I am aware that I have many.” Imperfection does not sell. And although perfection sells, it sells us a lie. This lie leaves us empty. Longing for something unattainable. It is out of reach because it does not exist.
Our media saturated culture, obsessed with beauty continues to feed us a lie. We think that we must be flawless, or that flawless is what is actually beautiful. Breasts, legs, stomachs, arms – all without flaw. Hair is shiny and perfectly styled. Clothing is snug and perfectly tailored for each model. We can never measure up to these false idols. This is not real beauty. As a forty-year-old woman I know this as I thumb through these pages. I knew this 12 years ago when I stopped looking through these types of magazines. I know this as these girls look for themselves in these pages. They see this false beauty, and hope that they can attain this someday.
I encourage them. These pictures were never meant to be a reality. They have been enhanced by computers, airbrushed, shaded, trimmed, and stretched. surgical enhancements, tucks, and plumps. These pictures are intended to be advertisements, a sales gimmic. Never the reality of something we should hope to attain.
God made us unique, designed in His image. His image does not need plastic surgery, it does not need a makeover. His image is eternally magnificent. We are His workmanship. He created us all in his reflection….beautiful.
Truth. When I was teenager I longed to find the beauty that I found in magazines. I longed to achieve what I felt I should by looking at the lies the world sold me. One summer, I purchased a bathing suit from a catalog with this in mind. I pictured myself, a sixteen year old girl, to look like the model. I hoped to charm someone that summer as my father took us on a vacation to Mexico. I hoped to be noticed. I wanted the attention. I received the attention. My father was uncomfortable. He attempted to cover me up as we walked through crowds. I was flattered by the attention. My dad was frustrated. Although my dad wanted my body to be covered, there was no understanding in my heart. A body covering just worked as a band-aid over a much deeper issue. There was a void in my heart. A longing, an ache for love.
My heart is what needed to change. I was a young lady living in a world that shouted loud with the voice of media about image and what the world defined as beautiful. No one spoke to my heart about inner beauty, purity that sparkles like diamonds, what God deems as beautiful. So I joined in deceitful charm that the world offers. Attempting to get noticed, and wanting to feel more beautiful, these counterfeits left me feeling empty and flawed.
God got ahold of my heart. He began the process of teaching me about His love. Inner beauty. His design for my life, and His definition of beautiful. This has continued to unfold in an even greater way within my marriage. God has used my husband to speak life into places that had been boarded up after disappointments and hurts. I thank God for a husband who understands God’s design, God’s beauty. Not just in me, but he sees it in our children, in God’s design, in the world all around us. God’s true beauty is everywhere. And in God’s people, beauty radiates from within.
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30 (RSV)
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead 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 (NIV)