I've been following a sweet blog, Thoughts by Natalie, a real space that contemplates the concept of inner beauty, uniting a strong voice of empowerment for women to slap the whispers of "you're not good enough" or "you're not pretty enough." And whoa, this beautiful (inside and out) gal gets it, friends! She is constantly triumphing over the temptation to listen to the lies so many of us tell ourselves every day. If you don't have someone like Natalie in your life, I encourage you to let her blog be like a daily shot of espresso for you, boosting your confidence, your energy in living an intentional life and your passion to see yourself as Christ sees you.
Her "Choose Beauty" linkup got me thinking about the delicate balance of inward and outward beauty and how difficult it is to navigate in terms of encouragement, inspiration and overall joy. As a Christian woman who knows in her head (and sometimes her heart) that it is foolish to hold on to the charms of this world, I struggle - as I would imagine many people do - with the desire for materialism. I have to give myself breaks with Pinterest, because this heart gets greedy. I start to think, why am I not "crafty" enough, why don't I have the newest fall fashion trends, and why can't I have all of these beautiful designs and things, things, things? If I had all of these things, wouldn't I be happier?
But then I remember the promises of God. I remember that He is sufficient of all things, and trying to replace my identity in him with my identity in something else will only cover the cancer with the band-aid; it will only hide the void until I am discontent again. My exchange of who God says I am with my watered down perception of who I need to become reflects a more devastating exchange - the one that weaves into the pattern of my life, day in and day out; the one that started with Eve and begins again in me.
Things will not make me happy. I said it, and suddenly it is liberating. A desperate striving for physical beauty is not what God intended for my life.
"Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."- Proverbs 31:30
But then, what about the fine line? Surely this reality of God's desire for me to recognize authentic, inner beauty does not mean I need to condemn every woman who chats about her new fall boots and what color red lip stick they find divine? I mean, really, what is the balance?
I find myself running between two ideals -- and this is true, you can ask my husband that I reflect on this a lot. I find myself wanting to pursue a life where things don't matter; I literally go through these manic moments where I want to rip apart my closet, throw away my make up and forget the hair dryer, living like a hippie that could not care less about trends, fine clothing or anything in between. Okay, so this ideal stems from my hippie parents, I'm sure, but nevertheless, I go through spouts of wanting to kill off every materialistic desire I have.
And then I find myself striving for another ideal: The white picket fence, happy family life - one that is comfortable with just enough glamour, and I can live and shop until my heart's content.
Even though these two ideals could not be any further apart on the spectrum, both of them are wrong. Both of them seep into my heart in an effort to claim my identity, and that spot is taken. So how do I pursue godliness in between these two ideals? How do I live for my one true purpose in the midst of materialism and a world that values selvage denim jeans? It is not wrong to have fine quality clothing; it is not wrong to tell your friend that she looks beautiful or to discuss makeup and hair products. So why do we feel guilty?
I think Natalie hits the nail on the head. Her post draws me back with a bit of application.
"Ultimately, I think it comes down to a balance. I don't think we should feel shame or guilt for feeling good about how we look—but I also don't think that pride is the answer. That being said, we also shouldn't feel like complimenting others on anything physical is wrong, but rather focus on adding in more kind words to make note of a friend's beauty apart from her physical appearance. Balance is tough—at least for all-or-nothing people like me—but it is also important. So the next time tell a friend we love her fabulous outfit, let's make a mental note to tell her something later that isn't quite so appearance-oriented."
I also want to add that Natalie's words on her husband complimenting her on physical and inner beauty also resonate with me. I find that when my husband compliments me on inward beauty, I cherish his words so much more.
But sometimes it's tricky. Does the physical beauty compliment not feel as authentic because I am truly hungry for displaying my inner beauty, or is it because I don't believe him when he compliments me on my appearance? That is the question I am going to be chewing on today... does this ever happen to you? Do you find yourself shying away from physical compliments - not because of humility, but because you feel uncomfortable not believing it?
I think for many of us, especially women, we need to remember that feeling good about our physical appearance is just as important as feeling good about our inward appearance. It is much easier for me to say "I look gross today" or "I hate my hair" than to say "I am smart" or "I am compassionate." Anyone else find this to be true?