Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a fashionista. Until I was 22 years old, I chose my daily outfit based upon its ability look okay with my running shoes. Even then, my wardrobe only stretched as far as flats and black GAP t-shirts. I’ve worn the same lipstick since 2003. My hair goes into a ponytail 98% of my days. If I ever do something with my nails, it’s trim them, although I try to keep my toes polished during the summer because I’ve been blessed with horridly ugly, long & gangly toes. A little OPI Maui Mango (from 1998) goes a long way at shining those up.
Imagine my surprise, then, when my young girl of 4 practically oozes glitter. She chooses her outfits, largely dresses and skirts, by the brightness of color and amount of pattern she can cram into those little 5T’s. She loves to talk about “make up” and the Lip Smackers her blessed Aunt Gigi gave her are always nearby. She relentlessly brushes her hair, even when we tell her we love her strawberry curls.
I don’t even know what to do with that. When it comes to the classic nature vs. nurture debate, this girl gets it all nature, I’m telling you. We watch very little TV and her overall exposure to fashion and beauty is minimal – we don’t have Glamour lying around and she (clearly) doesn’t watch me put on endless coats of mascara each day.
In the community of belief where I came of age, beauty was something largely shunned. Of course, all the boys wanted a beautiful wife – but the girls weren’t supposed to try to be that. We were supposed to let our inner beauty show and hope that the menfolk could see it shining through our one-piece swimsuits and crew neck t-shirts.
Vanity was warned against. Beauty is skin deep. It’s on the inside. While I appreciate these warnings and truths, I think the fear of beauty is a tad shallow itself.
We’re encouraged to appreciate the glow of a sunset or the reflection of the ocean. We applaud the work God does among the flowers and trees, and yet we want to limit His human canvas to the innermost and unseen. Eyes that sparkle and smiles that knock you over – those somehow seem to lack his fingerprints in our practical theology. But it’s simply not true.
God makes beautiful things. He makes beautiful people.
Having celebrated the incarnation less than a month ago, it’s apparent that our presence in this world – the way in which we occupy space on the earth – matters to God. He came here in flesh and blood and experienced this physical place. So, too, does our physical being have meaning and value. We care for it and we celebrate it because God made it.
The first letter to the Corinthians says that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit… a church in which God Himself lives. Previous generations of believers spent lifetimes erecting cathedrals of elegance in an effort to honor God and make a home befitting of a deity. Imagine if we cared for our own little temples with such intention. If I knew God were to walk into my home this afternoon, I’d probably spend a few hours picking up, maybe even vacuuming the floor. If God is going to reside in my physical self, the least I can do is take out the trash and hide the shoes in the closet.
I have no desire to see my little lady obsess about her looks. We make sure our messages of beauty include an understanding that our outward appearance complements our inward character. My friend B said it best: the most beautiful thing about you is your heart. We love her and value her first for who she is, but ignoring what she looks like – her physical being in this world – doesn’t help her gain a full confidence in herself. If God made her beautiful (as I believe He did all his creatures) and she wants to be beautiful, then I want her to live out this sense of identity.God doesn’t love her because she’s beautiful; she is beautiful because God creates beauty and God created her.
Now, then, I begin this daunting task of teaching stewardship of her physical self. How do we love and care for our bodily self without worshiping it? How do we decorate and celebrate what God has made without becoming consumed with things that add sparkle? And the added challenge of doing this with a girl who was born with an gravitational pull toward things in the beauty aisle. Yet I won’t belittle her love for sparkles, I want to find a way to let her shine in a way that reveals God’s hand in her life.