“‘Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I have bestowed on you,’ says the Lord GOD.” Ezekial 16:13-14 (NKJV)
Whether or not she will admit it, every woman desires to be thought of as beautiful. This desire is embedded in the very fabric of who she is, placed there by the loving God Who is Beauty Himself. When God created Eve, she was the embodiment of all that He considered to be beautiful, in female form. Prior to the fall of man, she did not bear any of the ugliness of sin. When God brought Eve to Adam, Adam said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23a NKJV). I believe that in today’s vernacular, he would have said, “Wow!”
When a girl is young, her understanding of what makes up beauty only deals with aspects of physical beauty. Her play times are filled with “dress-up”, stories of fair maidens, and thoughts of the “shining knight” she hopes to find some day when she grows up. Every lady faire dreams of a shining knight (conversely, every shining knight seeks to find his lady faire). The pursuit of beauty becomes just one of the pathways to fulfillment of this dream. As a young lady matures, and if she raised in the nurture and admonition of the LORD, she will begin to understand that what God considers beautiful is not necessarily the same as what the world considers beautiful. There-in lies the conflict.
Women are continually bombarded in our culture with what the fashionistas consider beautiful in a woman. Entire industries have been built on this constantly changing view of external beauty. This seems to always focus on physical attractiveness and its purpose is primarily to attract the male of the species. This is not the same as true beauty. True beauty comes from within. It is the result of integrity and a Godly character; it is the result of a strong and abiding faith.
I have written before about growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. This was the age of Twiggy (for those who don’t remember who she was, as her names suggests, she was a stick-thin young British woman/model with straight hair who looked more like a boy than a girl). Every young girl of my generation aspired to look like her. For those, like me, who did not, we were left feeling substandard and somehow lacking. The fashion industry has done more to destroy a woman’s confidence in who God made her to be than almost any other industry. Women have been led to believe that the air-brushed models they see in magazines and the actresses they see in film and on television are supposed to be “the standard.” For most of my life, as painful as it is to admit, I have fallen for this deception.
The advertisers and fashion/make-up industries have taken women’s innate, God-given desire to be beautiful for their husbands, and have manipulated this for their own financial gains and purposes. Even many Christian women have not accurately discerned that there is no wisdom in this. We have generally gone along with whatever has been dictated as “beautiful” in the market place. Either that or we have gone to the complete other side of the spectrum–all without considering what God might have to say about this subject.
Several years ago when my daughter was participating in the youth choir at a church musician’s conference, the leadership of the youth choir had to address the issue of dressing modestly with the teenage girls that were attending. The director for the youth portion of this conference had a “talk” with the girls in the group about the need to dress more appropriately. These were Christian girls, from Christian homes, and yet there wasn’t much difference between the way they dressed and the way their worldly counterparts did. After the youth director and his wife finished this speech, something happened that completely amazed me. A number of the young men in the audience began to cheer. These young men wanted the girls to dress more modestly, clearly indicating that within this group there were a number of Godly young men who were uncomfortable with the visual temptation they encountered every day.
I do not believe that girls understand what they say about themselves when they do not dress modestly. They do not understand that they tell a young man this is the best they have to offer– everything else will pale in comparison. These girls appeal to an ungodly young man’s baser instincts, not to his best. Girls inadvertantly set themselves up to be used and then thrown away when the next girl comes along who he may consider to be prettier. It is no wonder that relationships and marriages are so short-lived these days.
For all of my life I have struggled to balance what I felt God wanted for me with what the culture dictated. It never occurred to me that I shouldn’t pay any attention to those cultural norms in the first place. Women have always been taught to use their physical attractiveness to secure a man’s attentions. This has happened for time immemorial. Nothing has changed, except that as we have continually removed every vestige of God and Biblical principles from our culture, the focus on physical beauty has accelerated. We don’t really care about what is inside as long as the outside looks presentable.
About five years ago, during another Mother’s Day sermon, one of our pastors began to speak about how God sees and values a woman, something that left me weeping. He told us about how much he loved and respected his wife and how they were working together to bring their two young daughters up to reflect God’s Glory and not the world’s. He told the women in the audience: “God did not create you to be the object of a man’s lust. He created you to be your husband’s companion, his helpmate, the completion of his heart and his life.” It was then that I realized what I had believed all of my life. I had not understood that, even though I had always dressed modestly, kept myself only for my husband, and actively sought to become the woman God desired me to be, deep in my heart of hearts I had believed what the world told me was my true value.
There has been much disagreement within the Christian community about what is considered appropriate for women in regards to fashionable clothing and make-up. For those who might think that the above mentioned pastor’s wife was a “plain brown wren,” nothing could be further from the truth. She was entirely lovely in all respects. While I do not believe it necessary to remove appropriately fashionable clothing or make-up from the life of Godly women, I do believe that whatever we do should bring honor and glory to God. It needs to be an accurate representation of our roles as ambassadors for Christ. We should seek to make the best of whatever physical beauty God has given us as women. I happen to agree with my father-in-law, when he related what he told a relative of his during a discussion on this very topic: “If the barn needs paint, paint the barn.”
It is a real blessing to see the elements of Godly beauty and character developing in our daughter. She would be the first to tell you that there are many areas in her life that still need work so that she can adequately reflect God’s beauty and character. In many ways, she is what has been called an “old soul”. Likely, some of this has to do with the home-schooling process, as well as many of the challenges she has already faced in her young life. Mostly, however, I believe this is due to her desire to wholeheartedly seek the Lord, spending time with Him daily both in prayer and in His Word.
It has been a privilege watching our daughter grow up and mature into a lovely young woman. Her warm and generous heart, the fierce and steadfast loyalty she has for those she considers friends, her quick wit, and her intellect bring honor to the God who made her and to whom she loves and serves. As she continues in her walk with God, growing in His love and grace, she will indeed become a treasure for the young man who will someday become her “knight in shining armor.” She will be able to stand confidently at his side, the strength and courage of her character helping him to fulfill the call of God on his life. Her love for him will give him the safe haven he requires to meet life’s many challenges. Giving generously to him all that God has so generously given to her, she will do “him good and not evil all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31: 12 NKJV). She will indeed become his “lady faire”.
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:17, NKJV)
Copyright © 2010 by Susan E. Johnson
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