Lights flash and the crowd cheers as a once-frumpy mom prances onto the stage, hair gorgeous, makeup perfect, and clothes flattering and feminine. As petty as it may sound, I honestly love these moments. The newfound confidence just emanates from a creature who finally feels as pretty as she is.
Growing up in the church, I heard quite the assortment of beauty stances, each with its own set of verses backing it up. Some advocate no makeup at all, while others urge paying attention to every little detail. Peter and Paul seem to prefer ladies wearing potato sacks, but the godly couple in Song of Songs are major fans of pleasing aesthetics. Then add the sultry tips from the adulterous woman in Proverbs, the year-long beauty treatments Esther “endured,” and the bit about how looks are fleeting; talk about confusing!
When you sift through all of the Scriptures dealing with beauty and put them together into a harmonious whole, you might end up with something like this:
God created people in His image, fearfully and wonderfully. We are mirrors of the divine. When we know who He is and who we are, we are free to echo His excellence and creativity in every aspect of our lives, including our looks. This should never give way to obsessing about our appearance or dressing provocatively since these show a lack of love, a hole in our heart that needs to be filled by something or someone other than God. We are wholly approved, so the resulting security can lead to the freedom of exulting in who He’s made us to be. Our focus should be on our character, allowing the inner work of the Spirit to overflow into our actions, words, and thoughts. But part of what it means to enjoy Christ is to have a visible light that shines through the face. Neglecting our appearance can make it harder for others to see what Jesus has done in us.
I’m not saying you need to spend an hour in front of the mirror every day: that’s slightly excessive. But the way we look reflects something about the God we serve. It also says something about the people He loves, the ones we interact with. I was hit last year when a book I read for a missions class argued that putting effort into your appearance can actually remove a stumbling block for the gospel. In Miniskirts, Mothers, and Muslims, Christine Mallouhi writes,
Appearances are important . . . We are making a statement by the way we conduct ourselves and the way we dress. Respectable people care about their appearance in public, and we will be judged by appearances . . . What can you know about spiritual issues if people think you look unkempt, or even immoral? If you don’t know how to look after your body, how can you look after your soul?
Though she’s in the midst of a Muslim context, there’s a spark of truth in this for us. Spending time in America will show even the least observant person what a huge priority our culture places on looks. To be an effective missionary, it’s helpful to not turn people off by something that could so easily be changed. The gospel is hard enough to deal with on its own. Yes, you can love Jesus and still wear cute shoes. Let your makeup accent how God created you in His goodness, and let your heart draw people to the cross. Then everyone will see who is really the Fairest of them all—which is the whole point.