Our culture is obsessed with beauty and we’ve become obsessed right along with it.
I spent the summer after my freshman year in college working at a Young Life camp nestled in the mountains of Colorado. The fresh, mountain air was a healing balm to my hurting soul. I had been struggling with an eating disorder for years and just couldn’t seem to stop doing the things to myself that I so desperately wanted to stop doing.
While out for a run one morning, I was stunned by the beautiful scene before me and stopped to praise God for His amazing creation; for the mountains in the distance still capped in snow, for the beautiful field of wildflowers stretching out before me, for the perfect, clear, blue sky. In the middle of praise, God opened my eyes to see something I had been missing: I would never criticize the beautiful creation I was taking in but I so easily criticized the creation I saw in the mirror. I would never tell Him that He made a flower the wrong color or made a mountain too tall or too wide but yet I looked at myself and could only see the flaws.
How could that be? How could I criticize the masterful work of the mountains and reject His creation of me when, in truth, I am a masterpiece created by the Great Artist who is only capable of a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). More than that, with much more care than the flowers and sky I was admiring, He created me. He knit me together (Psalm 139:13-14) and He made me in HIS IMAGE (Genesis 1:27). How could I look at a field and praise Him and look in a mirror and not do the same?
God showed me that I had been taking my beauty cues from the culture but that path is filled with bondage and heartache because the culture’s definition of beauty is flawed and the ideal beauty constantly changing. Did you know that in the early 1900’s the ideal body type was a small waist and a large bustle? Because of this, women wore corsets and had ribs removed so that a man’s hands could span their waists. In the 1920’s, the ideal body type was the rail-thin, flat-chested flapper with charcoal eyes and pin-curled hair. In the 1980’s, physical fitness, spandex and Jane Fonda were all the rage and the ideal body type became the one that was muscular and toned. The “ideal beauty” continues to change: a pronounced backside, eyelashes that stretch to Canada, thick eyebrows instead of the pencil thin of ten years ago. We can’t hang our beauty hopes on the culture because it will change.
We must listen to the God who created us about what makes us beautiful.
The culture says: You have to have the right clothes and perfectly applied make-up.
God says: 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).
The culture says: Your outer beauty is the most important thing about you.
God says: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Proverbs 31:30).
The culture says: You have to have a flat stomach and toned arms.
God says: For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
Beauty trends change but God’s Word remains the same. We must get our cues about beauty from our Creator instead of the culture. When we do, we find rest and freedom and are able to use these bodies He created for His glory as we display His splendor. May we remember that we are a masterpiece and beautiful because our Creator only makes beautiful things and seek to grow in the beauty that lasts.