For as long as I can remember, I have been drip-fed the idea that beauty is being a particular number or size. Beauty, according to society, is having long, slender legs and a toned physique. When I look back at my aspirations to conform to this idea, I am annoyed with my younger self. Surely, I was not that gullible?
It is only recently that I understand what beauty is. Having been many dress sizes and weights over the years, I understand now that beauty comes from happiness and contentedness. Self-help books constantly bombard us with the importance of loving oneself before we can loves others and be happy. That's not at all what the Bible tells us. The more inward our perspective, the smaller our peripheral vision becomes. We then fail to see the world around us and the sources of joy that God has blessed us with. Happiness, and therefore beauty, comes from looking outside of ourselves and looking to God. Inspirational women such as Joni Eareckson Tada and Amy Carmichael are among those who looked to a higher goal. In giving their lives to God and His service, their willingness to forget self, shows the beauty of their soul-surely a far greater beauty than a glowing complexion or glossy hair?
Beauty is the smile on a Mother's face as she looks dotingly at her children. Beauty is the smile at the end of a busy day when you can say that you've made a difference to someone's life. Beauty is being a good friend, a loving daughter, granddaughter, mother or grandmother.
How do you want to be remembered? As a woman who was beautiful to gaze upon or a woman who made you feel beautiful in her presence. A woman who gave her time to God and to others. A woman who chose to look at the world around her instead of her reflection.
That is the woman I that I want to be and the woman that I pray God helps me to become.
I wrote the text above in the Summer of 2012, and while I still hold on to this belief, somewhere along the way, I took my attention away from God and focused solely on my appearance.
It is only recently that I can acknowledge this and it is with shame and embarrassment that I realise how self-absorbed I had become. It started with the goal of becoming healthier and fitter, and for a while I was doing well. I had more energy and loved being able to run faster and further with my son and on family dog walks.
All too soon, my aim became less about better health and increasingly more about becoming a particular dress-size. Through exercise and dieting, I starved my body of nutrients and forced it to burn off calories, fat and eventually muscle. I feel disgusted with myself that I fell into the very same hole that I had watched others tiptoe around and had even at one time, remarked on their vanity and self-importance.
It wasn’t even my physical appearance that changed the most. Inside, I had forgotten about my role as wife, mother and child of God and had hugely ‘dropped the ball’ in my home life. My Bible time and prayer life were replaced with relentless exercise DVDs and time on the weighing scales. My family and friends were left with the dregs of what remained: a burned out, irritable, depleted, self-absorbed shell of my former self. Comments that I often heard from loved ones were, “You’ve lost your spark,” “You look ‘flat’,” and the worst was “I don’t recognise you anymore.”
Health is central to life, especially a full life but the line between good health and conforming to a particular body shape or size can easily become blurred. I had forgotten the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20:
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (NASB)
Every part of me is a tool that God has given me to worship and serve Him and yet, I was using it to glorify myself. I was becoming 'uglier' by the day. Who benefits from a preoccupation with weight/size/calories? Certainly not God, your family, your friends or even yourself.
It’s easy to say that beauty comes from within, but it’s much harder to live with that in mind. We should ask ourselves if we want to live our lives as a monument to ourselves (as someone to be looked at/gazed upon or to act as a source of distraction to those around us) or as a signpost to The Way (someone who wants to be looked at, not to be revered, but instead to direct those to Someone far greater). After all, how do we know of God’s beauty? Through His handiwork, His creation, His steadfast love for us…through His ACTIONS.
So the next time you wake up and grimace at what you see in the mirror, acknowledge that it’s your actions that display the unique beauty that God’s given you and ultimately that you’ll
be remembered for by those who love you.
See you in the Round!