My 5 year old neighbor, who wears a princess crown, and my 89 year old mother-in-law, who visits the hair salon every week, have something in common: they both want to be beautiful! That longing to be attractive must be part and parcel of being a woman. I read once that women reach the height of their beauty at age 31. I was 31 when I married, and I certainly wanted to be as beautiful as possible on my wedding day.
But if women reach the height of their physical attractiveness at 31, what hope does that leave for the rest of us? Younger women struggle with acne. Middle-aged women face wrinkles and graying hair.
As a girl I l watched my mother style her hair, put on light makeup, and dress with care every day. She taught me that true beauty comes from inner confidence and knowing who you are. “A woman who feels beautiful IS beautiful, at any age,” I thought. I always said I’d never dye my hair because I didn’t like the message it gave: to be beautiful, you have to look young.
But then I turned 45.
Suddenly I started aging more quickly than ever before. I looked in the mirror and saw the smile lines around my eyes extending down to my cheeks. And when the gray streak at my temples spread throughout my hair, I ran out and had it dyed.
Every woman wants to feel beautiful, but maybe the world’s definition of beauty points us in the wrong direction. We see it plastered all over the media: thin, young women with perfect makeup and hair. When we measure ourselves again them we can end up feeling frumpy and dumpy.
What if that longing to be beautiful is from God, but it’s really pointing us towards something else? In God’s economy we are never more beautiful than when we are reflecting Him, his character and beauty, to the world around us. 1 Peter 3:4-6 explains what kind of beauty God is interested in:
“What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” (The Message)
This message gives me hope because, let’s face it, our physical beauty is always changing; even lack of sleep affects how we look. Although my outer beauty might diminish as I grow older, hopefully my INNER beauty will grow greater as I learn how to give God’s Spirit more control over my life. Who knows, maybe an inner disposition that grows sweeter with time will actually spill over into a more peaceful, joyful countenance?
Thinking about inner beauty convicts me because it’s up to me to cultivate it by choosing each day to say “yes” to God’s Spirit and “no” to my sinful nature. Honestly I’m not sure what this inner beauty thing looks like when I’m racing to get lunch after a busy morning, and one kid says, “I don’t want a chicken sandwich” while the other one says, “Mom, everyone’s tired of soup.” Believe me, I don’t feel beautiful during moments like those. But I know that every time I choose a smile over snapping back, every time I breathe deep and count to 10 instead of exploding, I’m saying yes to God’s reconstruction work in me.
As we make daily choices to cultivate these qualities, we grow to resemble more fully the Creator who graced us with His beauty when He made us. Which of these qualities do you most long for?