Today a co-worker of mine spent some time sharing with us about the struggles her 14-year-old daughter is currently facing. She wasn’t out to be spiteful toward her daughter; she kept things vague enough. Her heart was clearly aching over what is going on, and she needed to release a little of the pressure.
Listening to her speak brought a flood of feeling to my own heart. Instantly I was back in my own teenage shoes. All the awkwardness. The questioning. The flashes of intensity. The heartbreak. The hormones. I distinctly experienced the sensation of groping along in the darkness, trying, always trying, to find the light-switch.
What gives a woman value?
Ultimately, that is the question that we are always trying to answer. Am I valuable? Am I worth something? Every inch of the beauty industry is based on providing one answer. So too is woman-specific advertising for things like clothing, weight-loss products, home décor, etc. (Yes, I do realize that I am generalizing. A woman does not have to be interested in these things to be a woman. I am merely acknowledging that we are considered a niche market.) During the teen years, this question is the focus of every thought, every heartbeat, every rude or sarcastic remark.
If I’m going to be honest, though, that one question is still the focus of much of my life. I am always looking for someone, something that makes me feel as though I have value. I still feel an aching gap, deep within.
What gives a woman value?
As I thought about all of these things this afternoon, it struck me that I should not be asking this question any longer, for my own self. I know what the answer is. The fact is: every woman has value by sheer dint of her existence. The reality of her aliveness means that she was put her for a reason, a purpose. It means that there is something that only she can do, lives only she can touch, a breath of life that only she can bring to the world around her.
Every woman is beautiful. Madison Avenue executives don’t get to determine what beauty is. Nor does plastic, injected, sad and shallow Hollywood. Your green eyes, frizzy hair, freckles, love handles, arm flags, gap-toothed grin, uneven eyebrows, knobby knees, short fingers, long toes, or whatever other thing you don’t like – none of these, in any way, detract from your beauty. You don’t have to try and “fix” them. You don’t have to look like anyone else. How boring it would be, if we were all blonde, tan, ballooned, and a size two! Why does that get to be the only body-type that is deemed lovely?
Beauty really DOES come from within. Yes, being healthy is great. Beauty products aren’t evil. The key is to know that the outer packaging is only the artfully arranged bow on the present. Your loveliness is an essence that cannot be framed by mere make-up, by simple exercising, but putting on a great dress. Those are things that you do to something that is ALREADY masterpiece. Those things are akin to changing the frame on an ALREADY perfect painting.
What is this perfect beauty? Your mind, and all the things that interest it, that set it to spinning. Your heart, and all the things it loves. Your laugh, your graciousness, your generousness. Your passion, your drives, your pursuits. Your intelligence, your honor, your courage. The arms that hold a hurting friend, the eyes that cry at Hallmark commercials, the hands that write term papers, work math assignments, turn wrenches or pull dinner out of the oven. It is the quiet moments you spend starting at the stars. The last straightening of the pillows before company comes over. The tune you whistle every morning.
Beauty is not something that can be concretely defined, and nor can it be determined by any other person. It is entirely contained within you. It was placed there, willingly, lovingly, deliberately.
It was placed there by God Himself.
God is the Source of value for women. Eve was the last thing that God made, the pinnacle of all creation. She was given equal standing with man. She has great assets, great strengths. A purpose. A point. She is absolutely and always worthwhile, loveable and acceptable.
What she is not is whole. Since God is the Source of a woman’s value, then He is naturally the One who can fill in the holes in her life. He sees her loneliness, confusion, her striving. He anguishes over her aches, laughs in her joy, sorrows over her sin. He loved woman so very much that He could not bear to be separated for her. So, in a mystery beyond our full comprehension, Jesus the Christ came to this earth. He lived perfectly, wholly, so that woman could be whole. He ministered to and with women, allowing them to take in His presence and teaching, a thing unheard of at that time and place.
Then He went to that cross, bearing on his back all the shame and stain of women’s lives. He looked down through the halls of time and into your eyes. He saw through the mask of mascara and cynicism. He still does. He sees you as you are, your very essence. He sees the places in which you are broken, and holds out His hands in order to heal.
He loves you just as you are.
He just doesn’t want you to stay there.
You are beautiful already. God simply wants to take that beauty and refine it. He wants to chip away the hard things, the harsh things, the dark things. He wants you to shine brightly, without anything that hinders the force of the light. He wants to clothe you in splendor and righteousness. All you have to do is hand over all the junk and acknowledge it for what it is.
We know, as women, what sin is. We know it. We know all about the pain. We can choose to give all that up. We can stop pursuing beauty and meaning in things that can’t give it. We can loose that load into the arms of Christ.
I believe that’s what He wants for us. He wants us to breathe a sigh of relief and smile a genuine smile. He wants us to look in the mirror and know that we are chosen, loved, accepted and redeemed – not matter what, no matter where, no matter when.