My heart sank as my second born shared his troubles. Last week he had difficulty with friends and classmates questioning him about the birthmark on his face. This wasn't the first time nor will it be the last. His port wine stain covers half of his cheek, his chin and flows down to his neck. The pigment is not scarlet, but bright enough to be noticed by a nine-year-old boy trying to understand his identity. He tells me he thinks it looks weird and he doesn't want to be teased.
We live in a culture obsessed with our external packaging. Everywhere we look the world propagates an ideal to attain. Our world defines a person's value by what lies on the outside. The problem is, these expectations stem from a culture that values the wrong things.
The worldly recognition for youthfulness and perfection push individuals to have the right look, wear the right clothes, cover all the blemishes etc. The relentless pursuit of thinness drives people to lose more and more weight. Be the right number and wear the right size are the voices poured into our mind from the media.
Many strain to obtain these only to be left discouraged and feeling less than. Less than the air-brushed model in the magazine. Less than what Macy's offers. Less than what the day spa promotes. Less than the 'perfect' woman on the treadmill at the gym.
The temptation to look a certain way is enticing. It is easy to become fixated over physical appearance. As Christian women, God wants more for us than what the world offers. Our passage in 1 Samuel 16:7 shows us how to become more than in a less than world. It reinforces our understanding that the condition of our heart is more important to God than the condition of our hips. He cares about our faith more than our face. He's interested in our walk more than our wardrobe. He wants our maturity more than a makeover.
The prophet Samuel has arrived in Bethlehem to anoint the next King of Israel, one of Jesse's sons. Samuel sees Eliab, Jesse's oldest son, and thinks for sure he must be the one God has chosen. Listen closely to the Lord's response to Samuel's thought, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
Did you catch that? "...but the Lord looks at the heart." Why the heart? God values the heart because it is the consummation of who a person is. It envelopes the eternal essence of each individual. God identifies us by what is on the inside, while the world tends to recognize us only by what is on the outside. If God values our heart more importantly than our exterior, then we should too. When our heart is rightly aligned with God, the expectation to live up to the world's standards fade away.
Sadly, I gave into worldly pressures and influence as a young teen and college woman. My heart was preoccupied with fat grams and calories, the number on the scale, my pant size, and how much exercise I could squeeze into one day. This obsession with physical appearance resulted in a seven year struggle with anorexia and bulimia.
I thought the pursuit of "perfection" would boost my self-esteem when in fact, it robbed my self-esteem and left me with a misplaced identity. Not only was I physically anorexic, I was also spiritually anorexic. I focused on my body more than my Beloved. I starved myself spiritually by being consumed with my appearance and not with my Lord.
God radically opened my heart and enabled me to see what I was missing: a fulfillment only found in Him. The nourishment my heart needed was met with a deep passion for God and a hunger for His Word. This eye opening experience shifted my priorities. I realized if I would exert as much energy toward God and His Word as I had toward exercise, eating, counting calories etc., then I would be on my way toward spiritual fitness and a heart that pleased God.
Don't misunderstand, exercising, getting our hair cut or even buying a new outfit is not wrong in and of themselves. Matter is not evil. God created beauty. However, anything can become an idol. Whenever we worship the created over the Creator we flirt with the world's standard of beauty and security. Our heart becomes divided because we cannot worship self and God.
As my son sorrowfully shared his struggle last week I shared God's truth with him in hopes of establishing a secure identity in Christ and an understanding of what God values in our lives. When God sees us, He sees our heart, not our hair-do, high heels or handbag.
The truth is friends, we are more than. More than an air-brushed model in the magazine. More than what Macy's offers. More than what the day spa promotes. More than the 'perfect' woman on the treadmill at the gym.
We are MORE THAN, because He became less than.
Evaluating our motives is crucial and valuing what God values is vital.
Evaluate your motives for doing the things you do pertaining to physical fitness and your body. Pray over them and seek the Lord to see if anything is out of balance in your life that He wants you to change.
What makes you feel "less than"?
How has the world's view of beauty distracted you from who you are in Christ?
Does your life reflect the values that God values?
Heart Changing Word:
Psalm 45:11 (NIV) "The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord."
Proverbs 31:30 "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
1 Peter 3:3-5a "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful."
Copyright 2011 by Hester Christensen. All rights reserved.