In “Beauty and the Beast,” it is only when the Beast discovers that Beauty really loves him in all his ugliness that he himself becomes beautiful. –Author Frederick Buechner
A woman was looking for a church to accept and love her. She had a recent facelift and her doctor released her with this advice:
My dear, I have done an extraordinary job on your face, as you can see in the mirror. I have charged you a great deal of money and you were happy to pay it. But I want to give you some free advice. Find a group of people who love God and who will love you enough to help you deal with all the negative emotions inside of you. If you don’t, you’ll be back in my office in a very short time with your face in far worse shape than before.
Today, more than ever, we are hooked on physicality—a preoccupation with the body and satisfaction of its desires; an intense physical orientation usually at the expense of the mental, spiritual, or social. Far too many women over forty are hooked on anti-aging treatments and are being treated for eating disorders and depression, a sign, experts say, of society’s pressure to stay young.
The anti-aging business is booming. Plastic surgery, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, body building, nutraceuticals, and extreme cosmetic and dental makeovers are common place. We’ve been made to feel we must uphold society’s definition of perfect: to be flawless and defect free.
Like it or not, in this society how we look and what we wear is a part of who we are. Our “image” reveals not only our social, economic, and educational levels, but also our moral values. We all know first impressions count and play a major role in determining the course of a relationship. A person’s face is one of the first things we notice, particularly the mouth and teeth.
Research indicates consumers are becoming even more appearance conscious. Packaged Facts projects U.S. retail sales of cosmeceuticals will reach $11.9 billion by 2018. We all understand the lure of cosmetic treatments, and hormonal and vitamin therapies. We understand the desire to want our outside to look the way we “hope” to feel inside; the desire to step back in time and recapture our youth.
Sadly, women’s bodies and their hunger for love and meaning are on a collision course. Most of us have days when we’re disgusted by the face or body in the mirror. Usually this feeling doesn’t linger very long and we’re able to regain confidence. But for some, seeing an unfit, unattractive reflection staring back is a skewed perception which occurs daily.
I can tell you personally, no matter how many cosmetic procedures we have, we still end up searching for our real selves. I learned that in the quest for physicality one can easily get caught in the addiction trap. First, the professionals dangle the bait. Walk into an office and you will be greeted by an attractive receptionist. Then you will notice strategically scattered photographs and brochures of ideal, beautiful and flawless women throughout the waiting room.
Then the doctor pulls out the hook—the carefully planned, subtle sales messages: We can take ten years off you!... You don’t really want a nose that looks like a golf ball?... Liposuction will reduce your total body fat… Eyes which look like basset hounds won’t get you a promotion!
“I’m sold! When can we do this?”
These professionals prey on our insecurities and we purchase costly procedures all in an effort to obtain, or retain, youth and beauty. Many women are completely satisfied with their “work.” Others know the pain of a broken promise. Let me tell you “the rest of the story…”
In my early forties I was convinced everyone else was younger than me. The crow’s feet and turkey-neck were only accented by this realization. I said, “It’s time to battle a new monster: lines, wrinkles, and saggy skin!”
A cosmetic dermatologist promised I could wake up each day with confidence, looking and feeling my absolute best. I began investing thousands of dollars in lunch time laser treatments. At one appointment I learned about a simple non-invasive mini-lipo-suction treatment for the neck. The doctor would suck out some of the fat through a small cannule. I asked, “If you suck the fat out, what happens to the excess skin?”He said it will tighten up on its own within six months. “Okay, let’s do it!”
Months later I looked in the mirror in horror. The skin didn’t tighten up. It just hung there. Years later, it’s still hanging there! I have bought turtlenecks in every color, but they can’t camouflage this mess. I hear the turkey gobbling every day when I look in the mirror. My new attitude is: You don’t have time for this. Move on! Off to the turkey thought farm for you!
Despite cutting-edge cosmetic procedures available today, there’s no guarantee of a perfect procedure. In my book, Torn Between Two Masters, I describe the debacle with my rhinoplasty (nose) surgery which took place fifteen years earlier. One would have thought I had learned my lesson. Like multitudes of other women, I’ve had a hard time dealing with the societal pressure to look young. Many psychologists say it is a myth that how you feel about yourself is related to how you actually look.
Today I have a new kind of beauty, the kind which radiates from within. I think of myself like a red-hot coal, fired up from within by the power of the Holy Spirit. If I choose to leave the Spirit out of my life I become a cold, black coal devoid of any warmth. “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (Psalm 34:5).
Does this mean when I look in the mirror I no longer see those ugly footprints of aging? No, but I try to limit my exposure to the media’s messages. I remind myself that I am not God. I cannot reverse the effects of the Fall, no matter what I do to myself. And I work to refocus my thoughts with biblical thoughts such as,
- “Don’t become like the [plastic] people of this world” (Romans 12:2, GW).
- “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Corinthians 3:19).
- “He [Jesus] must become more important, but I must become less important” (John 3:30, ISV).
Is Participating in the Anti-Aging Movement a Sin?
Many Christian women struggle with this question. When the Bible was written, there were no plastic surgery or cosmetology centers. We need to answer this question based on what we know about God. It is a sin if these treatments and procedures take your focus off God and are put solely on yourself. I can personally attest that with every anticipated procedure it is very difficult to not focus on oneself.
I believe the issue isn’t whether we have plastic surgery or wear makeup or go on a rampage of diets. The issue to God is whether it is an idol and we are in bondage to it. Can you go without it for very long? My cosmetic procedures were idols. We are a vain people. We need to realize we can’t reverse the effects of the Fall. We all age. We all die.
Secondly, the Bible says one day we all will be accountable to God for what we did on this earth (see 2 Corinthians 5:10). I will have to explain why I frivolously spent so much money (God’s money; see Romans 11:36) on my appearance and body. Ouch! We forget that our time on earth is limited, and we are to use it wisely.
What I know now is if you allow God to control your inside, you’ll be genuine and beautiful on the outside. Look at how Jesus interacted with people. Notice how they changed the way they saw themselves when God himself looked at them. They felt loved, valued, competent, and a sense of belonging. They felt beautiful! It is impossible to spend time in the powerful presence of God and not emerge a beautiful person.
If you’re struggling with negative self-image, the ultimate makeover isn’t done at the cosmetic counter or the gym, or by wearing couture, or being remade by a plastic surgeon. It is done by God—from the inside out. Never forget you are his work of art, his masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10). You may look in the mirror and see flaws. God sees excellence!
Reflect on It:
- When God created you, he said, “very good” (see Genesis 1:31). Do you feel “very good?” Why or why not?
- What part of your body do you need to give to God today?
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking, (New York: HarperOne, 1973, 1993), 104.
Bruce Larson, There’s A Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick, (Fleming H. Revell Co; 2nd edition, 1991).
See http:// www.answers.com/topic/physicality#ixzz2FRhcOgAr.; www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/physicality.
PR Newswire;http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/first-impressions-are-everything-new-study-confirms-people-with-straight-teeth-are-perceived-as-more-successful-smarter-and-having-more-dates-148073735.html; Accessed November, 2012.
Business Wire, "The Future of Haircare: Consumption Trends and Product Preferences," April 20, 2012.
Market Wire, “Market Research Forecasts U.S. Retail Sales of Cosmeceuticals at $11.9 Billion by 2018,” May 9, 2012.
Kimberly Davidson, Author ~ Become a Facebook fan Kimberly posts encouragement daily!