Beauty 101


I remember the first time I left the house with makeup on. I had on this pencil applicator, bronze eyeshadow, briiiiight (!!!) pink blush, and to top it off - the stickiest brown mascara that has ever existed.  I thought I was a yung stunna. (I was really just a fourteen year old girl with a copy of Bobbi Brown's Makeup Bible.) 

Even before then, I would sneak into my mother's bathroom and play with all of her eyeshadows and lipsticks. Browns, reds, blushes, and green (GREEN) eyeliners covered my face in haphazard patterns as I tried to create something new and exciting on the canvas of my little girl face. I can still remember the exact moment I discovered what face glitter was (if you grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s, you might remember the ultra sticky palettes on display at Claire's).

Understanding beauty and what it really means to be beautiful has been a long and confusing journey for me. I'm still really confused about it even now, honestly. I grew up feeling very much that I was an ugly duckling - a fringe freak. 
Man, middle school, you guys (if you know somebody currently going through the confusing hell that is middle school, give them an extra hug and let them know that they will be okay). I had braces, I had acne, bad haircuts, late night crisis about bumpy noses and too-big chubby cheeks, not to mention the hurtful comments that go along with all of those things. Some days, I feel like I can still hear them, or that I'm still there.

I grew up in a lovely, wonderful family where natural beauty and simplicity were celebrated and embraced wholeheartedly. I will always be thankful to my parents for that. But there's nothing natural about Claire's face glitter or green eyeliner. Girls who wore "too much" makeup were seen as silly or over dramatic, or secretly insecure. But even still, every Wednesday night, I'd watch Fashion Television with Jeanne Beker followed by America's Next Top Model, and dive into the world of beauty and high fashion. And it was my dirty little secret - I felt ashamed that I wanted to explore all the glamour and mystique and elegance of it all. I craved beauty and pretty things. I felt as though this desire for what was considered "worldly" beauty was dangerous (even if the words were never spoken). 

And then came highschool. Suddenly, boys paid attention to me. I was so lost. I loved the attention, but I also knew I was in way over my head. The admiration and physical "beauty" I had thought I needed so desperately when I was younger turned quickly into something deep and dark and ugly. I can't even begin to explain the confusion, insecurity, and twisted ideas of what it meant to be "beautiful" that I carried around with me during those years. I was told that sex appeal, pounds of makeup, and a pressing need to always be "put together" was the key to finding my security and worth. I used it to hide the complete lack and instability I felt in the way I looked. And yet at the same time I was still trying to reconcile the inner, God-given desire I had for beauty, and his calling for my life. 

As far as I understood it, you couldn't be godly and pretty.

And that's what we're told, right? The beautiful girl at youth group is almost always followed around by whispers of, "Did you hear what she did last weekend? Did you see what she wore on Sunday?" I've heard pastors from the pulpit shame women for putting on too much mascara. I've read every single article on modesty and how women should dress that's popped up on my newsfeed. As per the culture of Christians, we mock and ridicule the society that takes advantage of women and cry, "Why don't they love themselves? This is why they're so insecure!" - but then we turn around and tell them that there's such a thing as loving yourself too much. There's such a thing as being too confident. We tell them that beauty and appeal and comfort in your own skin is too dangerous. Young men are told that beautiful women will try to trap and ensnare them. The responsibility of their wandering eyes is placed on the shoulders of teenage girls who are bombarded with images of sex and a standard of physical perfection - every. single. day. We tell boys that yoga pants are to blame for their lust and that girls who wear them are trying to steal them away from God, or are somehow unworthy of being treated like his children. We're even told that it was Lucifer's beauty that made him choose evil, rather than the ugliness that was festering in his soul. And so, as women, we hear silently and blatantly that our bodies and our features are sin. So we wear our turtlenecks and our one piece bathing suits and tell ourselves that this is what makes us godly. And all the while pride and insecurity makes us uglier than ever.

I didn't start feeling beautiful in my own body until I started to tear away at the lies and the pride that held me hostage. When I focused on changing my attitudes towards the broken, and my inner biases that were actually hurting people, I suddenly stopped throwing around the phrase "modest is hottest" (puke in my mouth). When I have peace in my heart, and encouraging words flowing out of me, I feel the loveliest. In the beginning of my faith walk I thought the answer to pursuing godliness was contouring less. In reality the beauty and purity of my heart was the real key. Did you know that a full beat face of well-done, skilled and beautiful makeup application done in the right frame of mind can actually be a form of worship? Part of pursuing Christ is accepting the fact that you are wired to be beautiful and desirable, and understanding that desire as a part of who you are. You can express yourself in all black clothing - tattoos, crazy lipstick, and out there haircuts and also be completely in love with God. You can never wear any more than chapstick in your life and be completely in love with God. Hell - you can wear a two-piece bathing suit and still be completely and utterly sold out for your saviour. Beauty is not our enemy. Our bodies are not dangerous and shouldn't be invisible. 

Before we open our mouths and give our two cents worth on "true beauty" and "inner beauty", let's make sure we're doing everything we can to support and encourage and show people their God-given worth. I care way more about how honest and kind you are, before I even want to look at how long your shorts are. I promise you, I'm going to call you out for being jealous or callous before I ask how many fingertips is your tanktop. I'm never going to assume someone's ability or relationship with Jesus by how dark their eyeliner is (if you can pull off a smokey eye every single day - power to you). How do you treat people? Are you well-rooted? Do you understand how beautifully and unconditionally Jesus loves you? Are you willing to accept every bit of yourself as a gift and a lesson rather than a flaw? 

You can be beautiful and love God. You don't have to sacrifice one for the other. God delights in you. Every scar, every stretch mark, every bit of extra fat and muscle that you possess is on your body for a reason. Beauty, worth, and righteousness are not defined by where you shop or what lipstick you like. Beauty, worth, and righteousness were defined in perfect example when Jesus died on the cross. 

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