Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Replace the Face

Don’t you wish that people’s hearts were displayed rather than their faces?

I had twenty-one girls looking at me.  I frantically searched my brain for how to describe beauty to these 8-14 year olds.  The young ladies before me have been growing up in a civilization that judges beauty on the physical.  We have adored models whose waist is a fourth the size of ours.  We have perused magazines whose photographed girls have been edited, reshaped, and polished to a humanly impossible level.  We have worshiped beauty as the avenue to acceptance, love, popularity, and fortune.  We have put so much pressure upon our girls that they suffer from bulimia, depression, and anorexia. 

So I told my story- the story of a frizzy-haired, acne-covered, braces-adorned, pale and freckled-skinned girl who was sure that she was the ugliest creature placed upon the earth.  Her parents loved her and told her that she was perfect and beautiful to them and God.  They told her she was smart and talented, but she couldn’t hear them.  She only saw her peers who were thin, had every strand in place, did not know what a pimple was, and had bronzed skin after a day in the sun rather than tomato red.  The doctor’s remark about her being obese on the height-weight chart only made her depression and self-loathing worse.  “Love yourself.  Everyone is beautiful.  If you are confident in who you are, you will be beautiful,” people encouraged.  Yes, it sounds lovely; but that advice is pretty shallow and doesn’t help much when you are a fourteen-year old girl standing beside a rack of Teen Vogue, Shout, and Seventeen magazines.

So what finally helped that girl who struggled even into her late teens?  Simple… when she realized that outer beauty is not all that important because- she figured out that the most beautiful people in life were the ones whose inner beauty was what she saw when she looked at them- she understood that God had made her just the way He wanted her and so she was perfect in His eyes- she put her focus on Christ instead of self- and she served the ones around her until she no longer thought or worried about how she looked but was consumed with how she could help ease pain and share Jesus’ love. 

Some of Leslie Ludy’s books have been very helpful to me on this subject.  May I share a few quotes?

“The most beautiful women I’ve ever observed are those that have exchanged a self-focused life for a Christ-focused one. They are confident, but not in themselves. Instead of self-confidence, they radiate with Christ-confidence.”
Leslie Ludy, Set-Apart Femininity: God’s Sacred Intent for Every Young Woman

“If you are ready to trade the hollow self-made beauty of this world for the glorious Christ-built beauty of a set-apart young woman, this is where it all begins. Denying self, taking up your cross, and following the Lamb wherever He leads. In other words, letting go of all preoccupation with self: our comfort, our pleasure, our agenda, our popularity, our ability to gain the world’s approval, even our own dreams and desires. And, as Paul did, treating all those things as rubbish for the excellence of the knowledge of Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (Philippians 3:7-9).”
Leslie Ludy

Does this mean that we shouldn’t care at all about what we look like?  No, I’m not saying!  We should keep ourselves presentable.  “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20.  We are representing Christ, and thus should be a clean, pure ambassador.  I use Proactiv twice a day to keep my acne under control; I exercise daily because I was overweight and was starting with diabetes; I comb my hair every morning; I brush my teeth and go to the dentist regularly;…

So where’s the delicate balance?  I’ll borrow from Mrs. Ludy again….I like how she puts it in perspective with the terms “respect our bodies, but not worship them”.

I said that it’s simple to have the right perspective on beauty, but unfortunately it isn’t; I still do struggle at times with my focus coming off of Christ and looking around me as I start to worship the god of Beauty.  Those times when I compare myself to others (and bemoan my crooked nose), I fall into that trap of empty beauty which only leads to depression and endless searching.

So may I encourage you today, as I did my teen and tween girls, to stop focusing on physical beauty and instead learn to know the beauty of Christ.  When we look upon Christ’s beauty, He fills us with His radiance….and then we are truly made beautiful through Him.  His beauty shines out through us and is what people will see when they look upon us.  

If only we had the eyes of a little child.  I’m sure you have had it happen that a child will tell you, “You’re beautiful!”  You want to chuckle because most adults would disagree with that statement, but that child has seen your heart instead of your face.  All he sees is the love, gentleness, kindness, and compassion that is radiating from the inside-out, not whether or not you are wearing name-brand clothing, have a perfect complexion, boast a gorgeous tan, wear a size 2, and are named Miss America.

Today I challenge you to imagine that you are wearing your heart instead of your face.  I also challenge you to view others in the same way.  Replace their face with their heart, and things will appear quite differently to your eyes.  There’s a lot we can learn from young children, but I think this, perhaps, is my favorite lesson.  

“No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

1 Samuel 16:7  But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

Proverbs 31:30  Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
“If people were more concerned with how they looked on the inside, then on the outside, the world would be a nicer place to exist.”
David Walsh