By Kali Dawson, Crosswalk.com
I can remember flipping through a magazine when I was about 12 years old. I noticed something didn't look right about the image. I remember thinking that the woman's legs didn't quite match her body. I showed the image to my mom, and she said: "Look, see that? Her legs have been edited to look smaller." I could clearly see when I looked at the picture that the woman's legs had been changed; the image didn't line up correctly at all.
From that moment, I learned not to trust everything that I can see, especially when it comes to appearances: things are not always as they appear to be. That moment with my mom and a magazine ad was when I first learned that our outsides could be made to look like something they are not with the help of technology and various other kinds of tools.
I'm so glad she brought this to my attention because it stuck with me, and I stopped believing what I saw in magazines. It's not often I pick up a magazine anymore. Still, I am constantly flooded with images in advertising, entertainment, social media, etc., that can shift my focus to the outward appearance as being a thing of utmost importance if I am not careful. According to my Creator, my inward appearance or the part of me that others can't see is the most important. Just as Samuel 16:7 tells us: "But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
We live in a physical world, and it seems we are wired to define ourselves by our outsides. We are wired to find our worth in our appearance. Like it or not, we judge people all the time based on how they look. Our obsession with the outside can very quickly overshadow the importance of our insides if we are not careful. There is nothing wrong with taking care of ourselves; our health and wellness are clearly important as we journey through life. The Bible reminds us that our bodies are temples, and we are to look after them and honor God with them: 1 Corinthians 3:16 says: "know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you." And then a little further on in chapter 6:19, we read: "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
Photo credit: © Unsplash/Jennifer Burk
It has taken me a lot of growing in my relationship with the Lord to realize that there is a difference between taking care of my body so that I can fulfill His purposes for my life and trying to mold my body to fit society's mold of what is deemed beautiful at any given time. Because let's face it, the outward standards of what our world says is beautiful are constantly changing to the point that they can even become unhealthy for a woman trying to live a healthy and godly lifestyle.
For those of us trying to do so, isn't it wonderful to think that we can stop looking into the physical mirror in front of us to define our worth, but instead use the reflection of God's mirror looking back at us as a measure of our worth: because the reflection looking back at us in the mirror constantly aging and changing. Instead, we can look in God's mirror to find our worth first, the mirror of His word which reminds us:
"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." -1 Peter 3:3-4
We are precious in His sight. Regardless of how we look, regardless of the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect, regardless of the flawed and often fake standards that have been set around us. Our worth doesn't come from our outsides. Instead, our bodies house the most important parts of ourselves: our hearts. And as we read I'm 1 Samuel, the Lord looks at our hearts:
And when we are at peace in our heart and growing in our relationship with the Lord, that peace, that inner joy, radiates from within to without. Other people see our smiles and bright eyes and wonder how we can look so joyful and beautiful even when we are surrounded with diverse circumstances, even when we are pressed on all sides.
"We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." -2 Corinthians 4:8-10
Our beauty doesn't come from what's outside us or around us; our beauty comes from what's within us. And what is within us is a heart that has been fully transformed and changed by God's love. What's within us is a heart so full of gratitude for His sacrifice for our sins. What's within us is a heart that has taken Him at His word, believed it, received it, and is at peace with whatever comes our way for the rest of our days:
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." -Romans 10:9
When our hearts are right with God, the light of his love that we have within us shows up in our physical appearance as it can't help but radiate out to the world around us. I know this to be true because I have seen that sparkle of His love in the eyes of others. I can also think of many examples of times when people saw that sparkle in me:
When I was in University, I hopped on the public transit bus one morning and sat next to an elderly woman. The first thing she said to me when I sat down was: "You're a Christian aren't you?" I replied: "Yes, I am," She said, "I knew it. I could tell as soon as you walked onto the bus." That day, in particular, I was going through some pretty tough things, but she could still tell. As 2 Corinthians 4:16 says:
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day."
The world around us can be crushing us. We can be hard-pressed on all sides and not know which way to go next, but if we keep looking up to Him, others will notice. Our beauty doesn't come from how others perceive us at face value: our beauty comes from our unwavering faith. Stop Looking in the mirror to define your worth sweet friend; keep looking to Him. I promise He'll put that sparkle in your eyes so that others will ask for the reason of the hope that is within you. Just as we are told in 1 Peter 3:15:
"But in your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…"
Don't be fooled by the world around you. Things aren't always as they appear to be. Keep looking into the mirror of His Word, the mirror of His love.
"Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn't last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised." Proverbs 31:30
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/elisa-ph
Kali Dawson graduated from St. Thomas University with a B.A. in English and a Minor in Journalism and Communications. She is a School Teacher, Pilates Instructor, and Mama of two young children and a beautiful 2020 baby. She is married to her real-life Superhero. When she's not holding small hands or looking for raised hands you will find her writing fervently about faith and family. To read more, you can find her on Facebook at Faith, Family, Freelance.