In Pursuit of Pretty

IMG_20140831_0006“Tell me, have you been shot recently?” and “Where on Earth did your eyelashes go?!” are probably two of the strangest questions I’ve ever been asked, but also two of the most informative. Both questions informed me that whatever I was doing in my attempt to be pretty… wasn’t working. 

Neither of my parents was great at hair when I was a kid, and what my mother could do never aligned with my ideas about how hair ought to look. Thus, I elected to keep my hair short and wore it down with the same headband every single day. By the time I turned eight, I would no longer let my mother touch my hair, even to cut it, and by age ten, I had long hair and no idea what to do with it. Enter nickname nesthead. Soon after turning ten, I had my first professional haircut: a very manageable bob.

In eighth grade, all my friends began wearing makeup, and, at the height of my quest to fit in, I jumped on the bandwagon, head-first. Having never received instructions on what to wear and how to wear it, my experiments with makeup went very poorly and ended the day Jake Pfister asked me whether I had been shot recently.

My freshman year, I had my first boyfriend and my first eye disease. Months later, with a scarred heart and a scarred eye, I ditched the notion of beauty altogether. Enter sloppy ponytail, t-shirt, and dorky glasses. When I realized that my eyelashes dirtied my glasses, I cut my eyelashes off. Years later, even after rediscovering my value as a person, I decided I was good enough the way I was and began to view girls with straightened hair and smokey eyes as fakes.

I began courting my boyfriend just after graduating high school. Suddenly, I had the motivation to look pretty. When I would see my boyfriend, I would wear my long hair down and wear a dress in his favourite colour. A month later, my boyfriend made a gentle comment about how much he liked it when I wore makeup (at the time, this meant mascara and lip gloss). My first impulse was to feel hurt. Wasn’t I good enough the way I was? I remembered, though, how good he looked when he cleaned up for me. Surely he deserved the same. I recruited my sister to teach me how to be pretty.

The next time my boyfriend saw me, he told me I looked pretty. Success! Throughout the weekend we spent together, though, he made a couple more gentle remarks. I had a tendency to talk too loud. I overreacted to everything. I realized that I had made my face pretty, but my actions still needed work. This time, I recruited God’s word to teach me.

I examined the lives of women applauded for beauty, such as Rachel and Esther, but the real gold mine for me was Proverbs 31. As I read the passage, I came to three conclusions: 1) Beauty refers to both physical appearance and virtue. 2) I definitely do not fit scripture’s description of a beautiful woman. 3) That’s not a problem with me as a girlfriend; it’s a problem with me as a Christian.

I’ll include the Proverbs 31 passage in its entirety below, but here are the highlights:

  1. A beautiful woman is productive.
  2. A beautiful woman is selfless and caring.
  3. A beautiful woman supports her husband and family.
  4. A beautiful woman does not worry.
  5. A beautiful woman speaks wisdom.

Leave it to scripture to reveal even more sin in my heart and show me where the real standard is. Who knew beauty would require sanctification? If the past is any indicator, though, God will not leave me here. Little by little, God is changing me from this anxious loudmouth to a peaceful, humble, wise, loving woman, who is equipped to bring glory to Him. And now, my goal in my quest to be beautiful is not to hear my boyfriend’s words of adoration. My new goal is to be a woman whose heart and actions resemble those of Jesus more and more each day.

Proverbs 31:10-31

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

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