It is always changing- from blonde to ethnic, twig-like to curvy, stick straight hair to natural curls- the face of beauty varies with the seasons.
Even as it changes, we continue to chase it.
We long to achieve external beauty and will do almost anything to attain it. During the Great Depression there was a term coined. It was called, “The Lipstick Factor.” There were so many basic commodities that needed to be sacrificed for the sake of the common economic good of society. One thing women would allow themselves as a small luxury was purchasing lipstick. Lipstick sales actually increased during the Great Depression. Surveys during our Great Recession have shown women faithfully visiting their hair stylists just as often as ever and purchasing high end quality cosmetics.
We buy- and yet we are lacking.
Nearly every time I open a women’s magazine I see 50-something, gorgeous Andie MacDowell posing for L’oreal. I wonder how she has not aged a bit since her 1993 role in “Groundhog Day;” the same certainly could not be said of her co-star Bill Murray! MacDowell is there on a two-page spread displaying nearly flawless skin and thick black cascading curls. I wince as I think even though I am significantly younger I work to cover skin flaws and use plenty of gel and mousse to give my hair a texture beyond cat fur! I feel somehow “less than” whenever I look at those ads.
It’s interesting to research the celebrities that were once babies at the same time we were the center of attention in our own nurseries. I share a birth year with actresses Amy Adams, Elizabeth Banks and Penelope Cruz. Believe me with enough “work” you and I could both look like them. Photo editing has a way of making anyone appear long, lean and beautiful. With several clicks of a button it is possible to airbrush, remove wrinkles and even lengthen necks.
Celebrities like Kourtney Kardashian (who had her entire post-baby stomach removed through elaborate photo editing) are appalled at how even they (the beautiful people) are not accepted the way they are. You and I may consider stars the standard for beauty- and yet they themselves do not even achieve that illusory standard of physical perfection.
The Flawless One
The wonderful thing about internal beauty is through the Bible Jesus Christ has given us one standard- himself. There is no need to scour magazines for the latest and greatest because Christ is the ultimate in spiritual perfection.
But as I read the words in 1 Peter, “Be holy as I am holy” I am overwhelmed.
I feel almost like Jesus is posing like Andie MacDowell telling me to use L’oreal and I too will be beautiful. I use His products- I read God’s Word and pray, yet I sin. I use L’oreal and I still have a zit that isn’t airbrushed away.
1 Peter 1:13-16 reads: Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
Holiness can be defined as “perfection” or as simply being “set apart.” When I think of holiness I usually think of the former- perfection. Since the passage in 1 Peter is a command it would almost appear as though we are irrationally being commanded to do something that is impossible for our sinful selves to accomplish. It’s similar to a parent demanding a two-year-old tie his own shoes. He could try but could not physically accomplish the task. Only a cruel parent would demand something like that from his child.
Holiness is an internal change that happens because of a change of ownership. The Apostle Paul writes about becoming a slave of righteousness, just as at one time we were once slaves to sin. The process of sanctification (or becoming holy) is a life-long process. It is growing in the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and becoming less focused on self.
Fixation on external beauty causes us to focus on how we do not meet the standard, fixation on Christ causes beauty to naturally appear in us internally. We will never fully be holy on this side of eternity nor are we physically perfect. But as our bodies age, our spirits can grow ever more beautiful.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
Struggle with your own lack of meeting the standards- inside or out? Me too! Let’s talk about it!