A Woman's Beauty

I have never had much of a head for fashion.  I grew up in the 70's, so it's not completely my fault.

Is Jaclyn Smith under arrest? Maybe they all should be.
My mom spent two years in the Peace Corps before marrying my dad, and there's nothing like living in abject poverty to give you an attitude adjustment on the material world.  We grew up well cared for, but constantly aware that there were people with far less than us.  I didn't think about what I wore, unless it was uncomfortable (scratchy wool sweaters, ick!).

Then I entered seventh grade, where my real education began.  I learned that without a Calvin Klein label, my jeans were inferior.  I learned that shirts acceptable for public wear required a tiny Izod alligator.  I found out I was not one of the cool kids.  And I got braces... to complement my glasses.

If it doesn't kill you it makes you stronger, right?  Ugh.

I started paying more attention to my appearance.  Ribbon barrettes and french braids in my hair, collars turned up, big hoop earrings, shoulder pads, neon shirts, overalls with one strap undone (what were we thinking?), makeup.  It was the eighties.  Fashion ex-tra-va-ganza.

Square Pegs was my actual life. Glasses, ribbon barrettes and all.

As I headed into early adulthood I settled into a comfortable look.  I suppose you could call it granola.  Birkenstocks, peasant skirts, tie-dye.  Nineties liberal university student.  "Look at me!  I'm intellectual and peaceful."

In the nineties I got married, and a few years later became a mom.  I started losing track.  I no longer had any disposable income or time to go to the clothing store.  The only way I had kept up with fashions had been seeing what the kids in school were wearing and what was in the stores.  When I became a mother, the only fashion trends I was spotting were in sizes 3-24 months.

Then we had another baby.  Moved to a farm.  Had a third baby.  I didn't just lose track, I no longer even thought about the track!

And not to mix metaphors, but isn't contemporary fashion just like a running track?  An endless loop of running in circles, trying to keep up with the changing trends, and trying to keep enough cash on hand to do it?  Finish a loop and discard the last loop's fashion while trying to acquire the new loop's accessories and mocking the loop before last?  I'm sweating and out of breath just thinking about it.

But back to my exciting fashion history - here we are in 2010.  I try not to be a complete slob, but I don't always succeed.  I have farm clothes and "town" clothes, but I am afraid to tally the number of times I have left the house in "town" clothes only to discover a stain, or a missing button, or few too many wrinkles.

I have found over the years that I feel most comfortable in skirts (so much cooler and less restrictive... not that I have a belly or anything.  Ahem).  I also like feeling feminine.  And my husband thinks I look pretty in skirts.  I have a very simple wardrobe now, consisting of skirts and plain shirts (with some sweaters for the two weeks of winter we get in Central Texas).  I really don't think much about what I wear any more, in large part because I have so many other things to think about... parenting, homeschooling, keeping the house and farm running, and a bajillion other little things that insist on careening around in my brain.

But sometimes I look in the mirror and think: who is that old woman staring back at me?  And I wonder, am I wrong for not paying much attention to my appearance?  Do people look at me and think, "Disaster!"  Not really the best way to be approachable.

As a Christian I consider myself an ambassador for Christ.  Am I being a good representative?

For whom do I wish to be beautiful?  For what purpose does God call me to beauty?  And what does beauty look like to Him?

I suppose on some level I still wish to be beautiful simply out of pride.  More importantly, I want to be beautiful for my husband.  I learned early on that my ideas of what look good were not necessarily the same as his. So now I ask him. 

But mostly, I want to be beautiful for my Lord.  To understand what that means, I look in His word.

Certainly there are objective matters that are addressed, such as dressing modestly, wearing a head covering and having long hair, dressing like a woman.  And I think it is possible to legitimately interpret these scriptures in different ways.

But I believe that the Lord cares mostly about our hearts...
"Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God." 1 Peter 3:3-4
God's view of beauty?  A gentle and quiet spirit.  He looks at our insides, not our outsides.
"God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7
Miraculously, when our insides are submitted to Him, He often transforms our outsides.

When we first moved to our farm, we spent some time visiting other churches.  One Sunday we visited a Beachy-Amish Mennonite church.  We did not know what to expect, and found ourselves in a church where the men and women sat on opposite sides, singing was a cappella, and the women wore plain dress and head coverings.  After the service, we were invited back to the home of one of the families for a meal.  I spent my time in the kitchen with two sweet, gracious, women.

I am quite sure that neither woman had ever had a bit of makeup touch her skin.  They were both beautiful.  Gentle, peaceful, cheerful, and completely oblivious to current trends in fashion.

On our way home that day, we stopped by the store.  As I walked through WalMart I felt as though I had gone from the holy to the profane.  The short shorts and garish makeup on the shoppers jarred me after the gentle voices and simple, feminine appearance of the Mennonite women.

We become so used to what is presented as beauty in our culture that it is easy to become confused about God's design for beauty in women.  I once read a Christian author who believed that a reasonable amount of time to spend on her appearance was a tithe amount - 10% of her day.  That would be at least an hour and a half each day.  It seems to me that God has an awful lot of work for us to do in the world that could be done with an extra ten and a half hours per week.

Keeping the faces of those gentle, simple Mennonite women before me is a soft reminder that God has already made me beautiful.  I must care for this mortal body of mine, but too much attention to it would be a distraction.  I pray that my adornment will be that of a gentle and quiet spirit... I pray that He will grow that spirit in me.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Beautiful post. And you are right, there is something incredibly beautiful about a woman whose heart is submitted to the Lord and it transforms her whole being. You, dear lady, are gorgeous!


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