This is going to get real honest here, folks. I’m pondering the topic of beauty along with the other ladies at Velvet Ashes, and it has often been a bit of a touchy subject for me.
Why? Well, I think it is for a lot of us actually. For most of my life I have not felt beautiful. I was the Sarah of Sarah, Plain and Tall. I classified myself in the “Not Beautiful” category in high school mostly because I didn’t fit the definition in my head of what beautiful was. I wasn’t like the other girls in my youth group with their gorgeous blond hair, cool jeans, pretty skin and detailed makeup. I had thick dark hair that wasn’t curly and wasn’t straight but a very uncooperative wavy. I did not have cool clothes or nice skin, and I didn’t even start to wear makeup until my college days.
For many years I have operated under the impression that in order to be beautiful I needed to adorn the outside of me- pretty hair, pretty clothes. But, moving to Southeast Asia has really opened my eyes to a different kind of beauty. Or at least helped me see that we all have a certain understanding of beauty whether defined by personal circumstances or cultural influence. All the things that I used to use to feel beautiful were taken away in my new life: makeup, doing my hair, fancy clothes and jewelry. I have to live with the reality of a tropical climate, and honestly, who wants to spend 30 minutes straightening their hair when the humidity will just turn it back to curly in 10 minutes?
I was finding that I could be content with my own beauty, with no masks. And then it came time for our organizational worldwide conference at the beginning of October. There were going to be people from America there, people who actually stayed caught up on current fashions and would look much more put together than me. I struggled, looking in the mirror and in my closet and feeling incredibly lacking.
I fell on my face before The Lord and asked Him for a new measuring stick. My standard of beauty was always in comparison to someone else, some magazine picture or popular girl or elegant woman. But God didn’t want me to look at all of those others and then put myself up against them. He wanted me to see beauty according to His measuring stick.
God must love diversity, don’t you think? Just take a look around. The range of flowers with colors in every hue, animals of every size and shape, mountains and oceans. Every person is different, from their hair type to the size of their nose. If God loves diversity then why don’t we? Instead of comparing myself to people, why can I not appreciate the beauty of the way that God has created them?
I saw a lot of beauty around me during that trip, appreciated the beauty in the amazing people that are part of my organizational family, in the gorgeous landscaping of the place where we were staying. It’s freeing you know? It is changing how I look at myself and how I look at people around me. I don’t have to be jealous of someone but can appreciate how God created them and compliment them sincerely. I can accept a compliment from someone without thinking, “They are just saying that to be polite”, or feeling pride from their words. I can just enjoy a day to dress up and wear pretty earrings because I love bright colors and not feel like I have to in order to meet a certain standard.
In the end it is not about what we put on the outside anyway, but the beauty of a heart full of joy, a heart set on the glory of God. These things pour out of us as the very best “adornment”, pointing back to the author of every form of beauty that we see and the One who is ultimately beautiful.