My opinionated daughters engaged me in a heated theological debate on beauty this week.
Irene saunters into my bedroom. Her beloved black and gold Tinker Bell pyjama top has a tear down the seam.
“Irene, throw it away,” I say.
She scrunches up her face, “NO,” she says appalled.
I hand her a needle and thread.
“Then, mend it,” I say.
“No,” she says. “It’s a pyjama top.”
I, “You are a daughter of a King. There is no need for you to wear torn clothes.”
She, appalled again, “He couldn’t care what I look like. He didn’t care what he looked like.”
Me, a bit uncertain, “You don’t think God cares what you look like?”
She, “No! He’d just look at my face.”
* * *
Zoe, 16, agrees with her sister. She wore contact lenses for 2 days, then declared that they were too much hassle. “But, but, but…” I stammer.
My very appearance-conscious father used to joke, “Men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses” and got both his daughters contacts in our teens, my sister’s when she was ten!!
I can hardly say that to Zoe. I am, roughly speaking, a feminist, and have tried to raise them to be independent and self-confident.
Zoe, seeing me falter, adds, for good measure. “And I have decided not to ever use make up either.” I gave her a lovely triple layer make-up kit for her 16th birthday, full of the most gorgeous gold, and bronze and silver and purples, which I would have had fun using as a teenager. “What?” I say. “Make up is fun; it’s like art; it’s like painting.” The fact that I rarely remember to use it probably undermines my words.
* * *
I thought of an argument I had with a close American friend of ours, who was a mentor to us when we lived in America around the time Irene was born. I had gained a lot of weight during that pregnancy and he—we had regular bi-weekly spiritual direction sessions over a period of 5 years– was urging me to diet and exercise.
Me, “I don’t think God cares what I look like.”
He, “Anita, when you write how you put it is as important as what you say. Your appearance is part of who you are.”
I somewhat bought his argument—though I have gained another 18 pounds since Irene was born in May 1999. Sigh!
Yes, God loves beauty, and so perhaps we should try to look as attractive as we can, given our starting point?
* * *
So how should a daughter of the King look? A story I heard the father of the friend I’ve just mentioned tell has influenced my thinking on the subject.
Jack Miller and his wife Rosemary who had founded World Harvest Mission were visiting Uganda. They come late to a meeting, and every seat was taken except the ones right in front, next to the President, Idi Amin. Rosemary nervously tells Jack, “I’ll sit on the grass.” “Jack says, “Rosemary, no! You are wearing a lovely dress. You are a daughter of the King. Be brave. We will sit in front.” And they go and sit next to Idi Amin, who is gracious to them.
This is a useful principle for me when I declutter. If something is too old, faded, stained, worn—whether an item of clothing, or furniture or household item, carpets, towels etc.—to be in the house of a daughter of the King, out it goes.
* * *
I don’t agree with Irene. I think God cares for his “original design” in us and wants us to fit and strong, and attractive in accordance with his original design for us. As is fitting for daughters of the King.
* * *
I noticed over the 17 years I lived in America that every female Christian leader and teacher was also slim and gorgeous. She would not have had much appeal to other Christian women if she had not been so. And so would not have been able to exercise her ministry as effectively
* * *
I have have theoretically acquiesced that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and it is important to keep it fit. However, my resolutions falter on a weekly basis faced with chocolate, let’s say, or how much more magnetic my laptop is than weight-lifting. I guess the girls have picked up what I do rather than what I say.
* * *
I have two friends with the degenerative neurological disease, MND or Lou Gehrigh’s disease. They have speech and physical therapy. Their body will degenerate anyway—but fighting against it will so something to ameliorate the degeneration.
And so, if, despite trying, in fits and starts, to exercise and eat more healthily, I still gain a few pounds over a course of the year, I am trying not to be discouraged, but remember that if I did not, I could easily gain a few pounds in the course of a month—or week.
* * *
So what do you think? Does God care about what we look like? Would he like us to continue trying to look reasonably attractive—or is he mainly concerned with the beauty of our spirits?