My mind is swimming today after studying the book of Esther. Really taking time to ponder the idea of what those young women- girls even- faced in Persia makes my heart so heavy. I had often considered the poor parents seeing their daughters being taken away to the king’s harem with that one in a million shot at Vashti’s vacant seat…and seeing her fate, I am sure that some perhaps feared more the possibility of their little girl being in that precarious position than just a member of the overcrowded harem.
Yet, I had never thought about the girls passed over by the king’s men, those with faces not fair and figures not flourishing enough to
be even a potential one-nighter. What a relief and at the same time what an insult to be passed over.
Lately, I have been thinking about the crazy emphasis our society puts on beauty. Good reminder here in this Old Testament book that this overemphasis on outward appearance is no new phenomenon; it is centuries old. I also recognize that as Christians we often become so reactionary that we go to an opposite extreme embracing the idea that the more haggard or disheveled or homely we look, the more sold-out to God we are. Then daughters of those souls, swing back to across the aisle to obsess over the latest fashion trends and believe “the better you look, the better you are.”
Funny that balance is so difficult for us sometimes. I’m not saying that I have mastered this tight-rope walk at all. But I will say that I’ve come a long way, girlfriend!
In college, I heard a preacher use the passage in I Sam. 16:7b “…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” He went on to say that Christians will use this verse to say, “God knows my heart so the outside, especially what I wear, doesn’t matter.” He pointed out the flip side: that while God has open view of the terrain of our hearts, those around us are left only to make a judgment call based on what they can see with their physical eyes- our outward look. Now he was referencing modest dress, but I remember another application reaching my heart: Others can’t see at first glance my love for the Lord, but they will be more aware of what I look like. That has been the guiding principle the Holy Spirit has placed in my heart regarding beauty, fashion, exercise, and all things pertaining to these areas. There are a variety of reasons why I try to regularly exercise and eat better, one of them being this principle: I represent Jesus Christ. I will be inviting others to know Him when I am out. My goal is for my appearance to be healthy and pleasing enough to those I meet that they will be receptive to that invitation.
In spite of my tedious efforts to achieve a polished look, there are still days where I’m nowhere within sight of that goal. Hey, breakouts happen and bad hair days are inescapable. On those days, I will still be giving the same message out as before, just asking God to help them see a little more of the heart and a little less of the outward appearance.
God is so good that he has given us beauty to enjoy. I’m thankful for the variety of colors and textures He has made and for the talented people He has created. I love seeing what emerges in the stores from just a trace of an idea in their heads. Amazing!
God has “freely given us all things to enjoy”…there’s my shopping verse! (Clarification: shopping not shop-lifting! Haha. That totally could be taken wrong.) Seriously, though, I’m glad that we can enjoy beautiful jewelry and lovely styles to drape ourselves in.
Then there are other verses like the ones in Prov. 31 about a women of virtue taking care of her family and those in need. (Only one verse is about exercise and one about her awesome wardrobe.) Then there’s the one in I Timothy about the person who doesn’t provide for the needs of their family being worse than an unbeliever and not living up to the name of the Christ they claim. So, that brings me back to the reminder that if I spend all day working out or fixing this ever-decaying exterior, then I will not be able to take care of the ones God has given me.
I’m also reminded that when Jesus talks about “not taking thought” about (translation: “don’t be consumed with”) earthly things but being consumed with love and passion for knowing and serving Him, that putting an overemphasis on the physical is just another form of idolatry. (Fun, how the Bible puts stuff, right?)
Honestly, I’ve stumbled on both sides of the fence. I’ve worked out non-stop like a mad-woman devoting my life and attention to how to “get there”. And at other times I have laid around eating buckets of ice cream while I study my Bible. I’ve bemoaned my calves and taken pride in my arms (…don’t ask).
So where does that leave a Christian lady? Somewhere in the sweet middle of this black and white Oreo Cookie. (See, I told you I had a problem)
Carving out time for exercise- spiritual and physical. Putting off an extra shopping trip to play a game with her kids. Often using discipline at the dessert table and at other times wearing an outrageously silly smile as she savours a chocolate chip cookie. Sometimes preparing a healthy home-cooked meal and at others bringing home fast food so she can spend extra time doting on her husband. She’ll recognize that good health will allow her to serve her God longer and stronger while still ensuring she has time off the elliptical to offer that service.
Balance is a tricky skill to learn. One I hope to teach my girls over the next few, fleeting years. I think the key to learning this lesson will be teaching them to love God deeply and supremely, and to allow Him to grant them the security and acceptance that our hearts all so desperately seek.
If you would like to learn more about Esther and the idea of beauty, join us next week Feb. 20 at 10 am at Southern Hills Baptist Church for our beauty-themed Refresher or join our FB study group Ladies of Southern Hills.
What about you? Do you find it difficult to find the balance? Agree or disagree? Share below.