I kept waiting. Waiting to grow at least 4 more inches, waiting for my stomach to smooth, waiting to grow into an elegant female instead of a disproportionate girl.
So when, at 22, I suddenly caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, several realizations toppled down onto me all at once: I was done growing (10 years past done, actually) and didn’t look a thing like the drop-dead gorgeous beauty I’d always imagined as a little girl. I still look like an awkward 12-year old. I crumpled to the floor. It’s never going to happen. The realization sunk into my gut like a lead cannon ball. And it hasn’t really left since, to be honest, even nearly 2 years later.
Idolatry at its finest masks itself as pain with a remedy that feeds one’s pride. Low self-esteem is the diagnosis of the day. That label in itself is deceiving; its very name suggests that the problem is thinking too little of ourselves when, in truth, struggles with self-esteem well up from a heart that is worshiping self too much.
Insecurity is nothing more than inverted pride. If we’re honest we often aren’t mad because we aren’t pretty or smart or funny. We’re mad because we aren’t the prettiest, the smartest, or the funniest. Superlatives aside, we want to be the best and it stings our pride when we don’t consider ourselves the best in the room or the school or even the ministry team.
What’s even worse, many churches and leaders have bungled attempts to remedy this. Rather than point those struggling with these things to Christ and teaching them to esteem Him, we feed their pride and tell them exactly what their flesh wants to hear and stroke their egos exactly where they want to be stroked. For the sake of “not being judgmental” or “not being negative” or “not offending anyone” we refuse to lovingly call out sin and incorrect focus of the eyes of their hearts and allow them to wallow in the pit of their pride which will never bring them true, lasting comfort or maturity.
The truth is that no matter how much the world shoves the lies of “you can be whatever you put your mind to” and “this next product or plan will give you the attractiveness you desire” down our throats, most of us will never be as physically attractive as we want to be. I will never be the 5″7+ with a long, slender torso complete with the baby blue eyes I’ve always wanted. No matter how much I contour my face, no matter how much I exercise my abs, no matter how many selfies I take, it won’t happen. And, yes, I’ll confess that fact still draws long, disappointed sighs from me.
But here’s the good news: we have been freed from desiring our own beauty, from furthering our own self-image because Christ is more beautiful than we can fathom and we have been called to further His Name, that is above all names (Philippians 2:9).
Does this mean we cannot experiment with makeup or clothing? Of course not. We are creative and imaginative because our Creator is creative and imaginative. Neither should we forsake exercise and nutrition. In fact, we are specifically instructed to be good stewards of our bodies since, through Christ, they have become temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). But the question is: to what end do we labor? Are we putting on our clothing, are we exercising, are we eating to shape our bodies to catch the eyes of men or to shape our spirits to point the eyes of all mankind toward Christ?
As always in the pursuit of godliness, there will be obstacles. I still bawl my eyes out when I look in the mirror sometimes. In a culture obsessed with beauty manufactured by man rather than by God, it’s so hard to lift our heads above the constant bombarding stream of the next toning trend, the next guaranteed diet or the next cosmetic fad. And honestly, Satan wants us focused on any sort of fake beauty because all true beauty flows from the Beautiful One Himself. Satan desperately wants us to mimic him, for though he was likely one of the most beautiful created creatures in existence (Ezekiel 28:12-15) , he still wanted more: he wanted the attention and honor and glory to come to him and not God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
As hard as it is to hear, there is mercy in not being a supermodel. Women so often think it would be so great to have groups of men falling down to date them, if they had thousands of followers who copied every small change in appearance they made, if their haircuts and new shoelaces made headlines. But the truth is, we’d be much more likely to rest in our own physical appearance, in our own fame, and in our own image, all of which are fleeting like the flowers of the field (1 Peter 1:24). We’d never get enough of ourselves.
I’m not saying there are not some truly godly women who are also considered attractive by the culture (obviously that’s not true). God can certainly use the physical beauty He’s crafted a woman with (as in the story of Esther). But if we already envy a certain trait in someone else, be it beauty or intelligence or family or humor, it would very likely become a deeply rooted, precious idol in our lives if we were given it since we are already so focused on its absence.
And that’s definitely not what’s best for us. To rest in the fact that we are known by the Lord and that He fashioned us according to perfect wisdom is best for us. Each of us looks exactly as we should, exactly as His eye saw us from eternity past. The Lord has equipped us with everything we need to live this life to His glory and seldom does that require us to have our physical beauty exalted by the culture at large. The desire for self-glorification must die for we will all one day be clothed in the beauty of Christ, bought by His life and His death and a more radiant garment than we could ever weave together ourselves. That is a the remarkably beautiful truth we should focus on exalting, displaying and sharing with our words! It’s eternal; it’s unshakable; and for those of us in Christ, it is sure.