Mrs. Laning is a wife and mother in Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan.
If you have ever hiked through rugged, towering mountains for a week without the convenience of running water, toilets, or electricity, then you have experienced a taste of what campers relish as “roughing it.” When I was 15 years old I joined such ranks when I went on a church youth group backpack trip in the California High Sierra Mountains. Prior to the trip, we were told exactly which bare essentials to bring, and by no means could we bring anything else. We were to backpack every day to new and uninhabited locations, so having a light pack was important. Being the inexperienced camper that I was, my idea of “essentials” was a bit different than that of our camping coordinators. On the day before we left, the leader had us bring our backpacks in to get them weighed. I then realized to my horror that he was checking in our backpacks to make sure they were filled according to regulations. When my pack was opened, he took out a curiously wrought cosmetic device. “What is this?” he asked with a puzzled look. I whispered sheepishly, “An eyelash curler.” He proceeded to lift up my personal toiletry item high in the air and call to everyone to come look and see what I had managed to smuggle in. I was a fine public example. Having received this rebuke for disobeying the rules, I felt I had received a gentle chastisement from the Lord for my vanity.
The kind of beauty the Lord desires women of His covenant to have requires that which cannot be packed in a backpack or suitcase anyway, for such beauty takes much prayer and all-out warfare. We live in a day when we and our children are pummeled by an onslaught of what the world and media think is attractive. It is not surprising that teens and even preteens are increasingly preoccupied with their bodies, relating to an epidemic of depression, eating disorders, and promiscuity. For such a time as this, our girls and women must seek the antithetical beauty taught in God’s Word. This is a beauty that Satan would love to rob us of and a beauty we must fight for. In the Scriptures, Esther spent much time preparing herself physically to be attractive for the king. In Esther 2:12, we read of a royal beauty treatment that lasted for twelve months: “six months with oil and myrrh, and six months with sweet odors….” One may think that is a lot of time to make oneself look presentable, but that is nothing in comparison to how much time Christian women are to spend beautifying themselves. For we are to beautify ourselvesspiritually for the King of all kings.
How do we do this? By putting off our old man of sin and putting on our new man in Christ every day all day long. We are called to be soldiers, putting on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11). We are also called to be beautiful women, adorning ourselves with a chaste conversation, sobriety, modesty, and a meek and quiet spirit (I Tim. 2:9, 10 and I Pet. 3:1-4). Putting on the armor of God and adorning ourselves are spiritually one and the same. This is what putting on Christ is all about. Christ is the only One who is perfectly lovely, without spot or wrinkle. We put on Christ by coming to Him and learning of Him: “take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29). The more we in humility spend time with Christ by faith in prayer, in study of His Word, and in seeking to imitate Him in all good works, the more we begin to reflect His beauty.
When we lose sight of Christ as our standard, we cease to be beautiful. When a woman is striving to be dangerously thin, for example, she is not putting on true beauty. “You can never be too rich or too thin,” touted the late American- born Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. Truly a foolish motto many have lived and died by. Tragically, even Christian girls and women (and a smaller number of males) are falling into harmful eating disorders, which may include purging their food or virtually stopping eating altogether. Such women have a distorted body image, an extreme fear of gaining weight, and a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight. This self-inflicted starvation is not at all beautiful. Rather, it is disruptive and dangerous to God’s design of the body. God made all of our tissues, organs, and systems to work together at just the right time, revealing how marvelously we are made. May we encourage these struggling saints to glorify God by caring for the “temple of the Holy Spirit” God has given them. Only when we are glorifying God are we beautiful. “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14). May we with them grow to desire more the only good kind of weightlessness— the weightlessness we experience when we cast all our burdens upon the Lord.
When a woman is striving to be enticing she is not putting on true beauty; for spiritual strength is what is beautiful. Modesty and a chaste conversation are strong and beautiful virtues. There are many verses that point to spiritual strength as beautiful, as in Psalm 144:12, which says, “…that our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” The virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:17 has a similar idea, “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” Being a temptress is the opposite of this. Yet, in order to fight this sin with spiritual strength we have to recognize it within ourselves.
I had a conversation with a Christian woman about the difficulty in finding modest clothing for our girls. We agreed that the stores (especially the teen departments) are filled with clothing designed to seduce, with tight-fitting apparel, plunging necklines, and elevated skirt hems. We then got on the subject of beach attire, lamenting how immodest most bathing suits were, especially the two-piece bikini. “But you know,” she said, “if a man finds himself lusting, that’s his own fault. I’m not responsible for his sin.” Although it is true that each man must answer to God for his sin, this woman’s comment hits on a problem. Crucial in putting on godly beauty is that we do whatever is in our power not to tempt others in our dress, words, and actions. Our sinful nature wants attention and desires heads to turn to look at us. When we give in to our sins, we are no longer clothed. Spiritually, we have cast off our adorning and are shamelessly naked. Each morning when we dress for the day, this responsibility should guide our choices. Out of a concern for our soul and the soul of others, we have this obligation. Let us put on the armor of beautiful light, as Romans 13:12-14 says,
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light…. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Godly sorrow for sin and fervent love for Christ are beautiful. One of the most lovely women in Scripture is she who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. In Luke 7:36-50 we read of her meekly coming to Jesus while very conscious of her many sins. She knew she was a sinner, but she knew she was a forgiven and repentant sinner. The fact that she loved much, was proof that she knew she had been forgiven much. As she contemplated this unmerited forgiveness, she wept upon Jesus’ feet with tears of overwhelming gratitude. To demonstrate her love for Him she took her most beautiful, glorious feature and proceeded humbly to wipe His soiled feet. She then anointed the feet with precious, costly ointment. When we, like this woman, view ourselves as being forgiven much, we will love Christ with a fervent love that is beautiful. As we live in the consciousness of being forgiven sinners, may we glorify God in loving service, using all of the beautiful gifts He has given us.
Parents teach their children by word and example what true beauty is. We do well to stress the biblical truth in I Peter 3:4 that true beauty is the “hidden man of the heart.” A meek and compassionate heart is far more beautifying than any costly creams or tanning sessions. No mascara or eyelash curler can produce eyes that shine with sincere interest at those who are speaking with them. Lip gloss is fine, but a smile upon one’s lips is beautiful when it conveys the message, “I am glad to see you.” When our children learn meekness as Romans 12:10 says, “…in honor preferring one another,” they learn to look outside of themselves and see beauty in others. Parents can help point out the value of this and show the many places that this beauty is seen. It is seen in the hunchback elderly woman who has washed the saints’ feet, having been spent for others in loving service. It is found in a repentant sinner’s heartfelt words, “I am sorry, please forgive me.” It is also seen in the contentment of God’s children who are sick, crippled, maimed, and mentally challenged, who believe that one day their bodies and ours will perfectly reflect the beauty of Christ.
In Dostoevsky’s classic novel The Idiot, the Prince says, “I believe the world will be saved by beauty.” This is an intriguing thought, and regardless of what the author may have meant, it is quite true. The Beautiful One will indeed save His cosmos, as the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). What a blessed hope we all have in the promised resurrection that we will one day experience. “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53). May we put on true beauty while we wait in glad expectation for this perfect, heavenly, and everlasting beauty that will never fade away.