Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Do You Think I'm Fat?

Perhaps one of the most awful questions a woman can ask a man is "Do you think I'm fat?" Equally as unpleasant for a man to hear are its cousins, "Do you think I need to lose some weight?"; "Does my butt look big in this?" as well as the self-evaluative, "I feel so fat today," and "I'm ugly," which, in spite of their declarative nature still beg for a response. Finally, there is the completely ruthless, "Do you think she's prettier than me?"

Ladies, is it not true that there is one and only one reason why we do this to men? See if your assessment lines up with mine . . .

Essentially, in evaluating my own heart and observing the actions of others, I believe the motive behind asking men questions such as these will always fall into into one of two categories:
1) I am insecure and need reassurance from a man, any man, that I am attractive;
2) I know I'm attractive and I want to force every man in my path to acknowledge it.

I am confident that these are the only two reasons in a woman's heart why she would ever ask a man questions of this nature. And although they appear to be opposites, the irony is, both stem from pride. This is true for me. Is it true for you? Let's look at Option 1.

I AM INSECURE

Insecurity is generally a fear that people will not like us for some reason and ultimately reject us. Insecurity is the need to be accepted by others and to gain their approval. When we are feeling ugly, fat, or undesirable in any way, we will often seek the approval of men by asking them to reassure us that we are gorgeous. Option 1, in my opinion, is the most common reason why women ask such questions of men and accounts for 99% of these types of discussions. Truth be told, the real motive here is a need to find completeness in something other than God. When we are not completely satisfied in who we are in Christ, we start to look to others to give us that validation. This might be obvious. But what is not so obvious is that when we are insecure, the number one priority on our list is self. Fear stops us from being real with another person. It causes us to withdraw and oftentimes demands that others go through unrealistic lengths to comfort us.

I AM FISHING FOR COMPLIMENTS

Although not as common as Option 1, Option 2 is still a very active catalyst for these types of questions. You look good, and you know it. You see that man looking at you, and you know what he's thinking but you want to hear him say it. What better way to drag a compliment out of him than to ask a ridiculous question that you know is obviously not true?

When I was in high school, I knew a girl who was the master of this technique. She had great legs and she knew it. When the weather started warming up, she'd put on a pair of short shorts and strut in front of all the guys. Then she'd take her long hair out of its ponytail, shrug her shoulders in despair and exclaim, "I'm so ugly!" We'd all watch in amazement as the boys would nearly trip over their own feet, careful not to drool on her as they approached her with their heartfelt words of consolation.

Sometimes she did not have to beg for the compliment. Sometimes a man would come right out and say, "Wow, you look great today." But just because she wanted to hear those words again, she'd say, "No, you're wrong! I'm hideous!" Or something equally nonsensical. The poor man would then fall right into her trap, insisting that she was the most gorgeous creature he'd ever seen.

DEPRAVITY IN ACTION

Obviously, both reasons for making these comments are examples of depravity in action. Although insecurity is the more common of the two, let me encourage you not to go down that path with your husband. When a woman is feeling pretty low, she normally asks this question because she wants consolation that she is loved. The problem is, it never works. (Men, if you're reading this, pay close attention:) The reason it never works is because a woman who is feeling insecure has already made up her mind that she is unattractive. Ladies, isn't it true that no matter what he says, we will be inconsolable?

Ladies, isn't it true that no matter what he says, we will be inconsolable? If the man says, "Yes, you're fat," we will burst into tears and feel even worse. If he answers, "No, I don't think so," we have either forced him into a position where he feels he needs to lie, or we have enouraged him to give an honest assessment, only to accuse him of lying as we run to another room, slamming the door behind us.

How we should respond instead. Men have an overwhelming desire to fix problems. They don't like seeing women upset. So when we appeal to a man to make us feel better and then ask him the one question for which he has no satisfactory answer, he is going to be left feeling exasperated and frustrated that he couldn't help.

So what should we do? First, when we are tempted to go to men for comfort, we should stop and seek comfort from God. We should focus on the fact that our fickle feelings are not reality. Our feelings do not dictate the truth of whether or not our husbands find us attractive.

Secondly, when we need comfort and words of affirmation from our husbands, we should simply say so. We should simply be honest and tell our husbands, "I am feeling low today," (or unattractive, or fat, etc). We should openly ask our husbands for the comfort we need, but resist the temptation to ask him what he thinks of our weight. The question is a trap for him, but also for us. An answer in the affirmative will only confirm our suspicions that we are ugly; an answer in the negative will leave us wondering if he is lying to spare our feelings.

Finally, when we are unhappy with our appearance, we should take an honest assessment of the situation and see what can be done to change it. The change does not have to be drastic. Maybe we can exercise more. Perhaps we can give up drinking soda or having that late night snack. Physical exercise and healthy eating is an excellent way to discipline the flesh and bring it under the authority of Christ. And remember, while God is faithful to complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6), our physical imperfections can often be the very limitations we need to help keep us humble.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Bald and the Beautiful


Physical appearance is a concern that is commonly designated to women. Yet in our increasingly superficial society, more and more men are feeling the pressure to measure up to the culture's standard of attractiveness. Since our theme this month is true beauty, we thought we'd examine some of the issues surrounding male pattern baldness . . . and see if perhaps the Bible might have anything to say about the subject. In honor of our brothers in Christ, who are more visual, we've decided to go with more images in order to demonstrate that bald is beautiful!

Fact: Adults lose about 100 scalp hairs each and every day.

Scripture Says: The very hairs on your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30; Luke 12:7)

Fact: Men begin losing their hair as early as age 20. Therefore, baldness is not a sign of age.

Scripture says: The glory of young men is their strength,but the splendor of old men is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29, emphasis added)


Fact: Baldness is commonly regarded by many as a sign of weakness and disgrace. For this reason it is often the cause of great psychological distress in men.

Scripture says: [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, "Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!" And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. (2 Kings 2:23-24)"I bristle when I hear advertisements for hair growth. They make it sound like hair loss is the worst possible thing that could happen to you." ~Michael Chiklis, Actor

Fact: Most men are genetically predisposed to baldness. This is because baldness is caused by testosterone, the primary hormone responsible for both primary and secondary sex characteristics in men. (And I believe, just as long hair on a woman is a symbol of femininity, less hair on a man is a symbol of masculinity!)


Scripture says: For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering. (1 Corinthians 11:3-15, emphasis added).

We here at Reformed SHEology want to encourage our brothers in Christ to not grow anxious over seeing more skin up top. In the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11, we encourage you to say it loud: I'm bald and I'm proud! The world wants so much for us to focus on the flesh. For women, it's usually our weight, for men, it's their hair. Let's encourage one another in brotherly (and sisterly) love by praising one another for the way we strive to look more and more like Christ every day.

The following video features an interview with Patrick Stewart, who began losing his hair at age 19. We hope this video will inspire men to have the right attitude about the way God has chosen for them to look:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What's on your Mind?

Celebrity top beauty tips, 20 Anti-aging secrets, The Ultimate Guide to Managing the Home! Today, women are bombarded by such headlines on the magazine shelf, internet, junk mail, etc. Headlines such as these are written for a reason. They draw the reader's attention because the writers know what are on most women’s minds and what it is that will get them to buy their products. I see these headlines all the time but the question is what is it that is on my mind most of the time? Is aging an issue for me? Do I think "wouldn’t this article help because so and so endorses the topic?" This got me thinking about, well, thinking actually! Let me explain.

With my youngest starting nursery I have found that even though I am still busy with many things to get done in the day I am now, for a couple of hours at least, less distracted. But now a new distraction has arisen. My mind is now more freely allowed to think and meditate on things. But there is a problem: trial and temptation. None of us as Christians are ever beyond trials or being tempted. It can happen suddenly. When we are faced with a trial it follows that we are tempted to contemplate ways out, to find our comforts from the world or even slip into self pity. If we don’t begin to restrain our thoughts then we can be sure the enemy will draw us away from the Lord.

I have found in a place of testing and with moments of less distraction I have been thinking more on earthly things such as "contact such and such person for a chat (knowing it will lead to grumbling about the situation!)," "treat yourself to such a thing (even when you don‘t have the money!), you deserve it because you're going through such a hard time." By allowing myself to meditate on thoughts such as these I can easily be led to act on them which would be unwise and even sinful. John Owen writes:

We should make every effort to think carefully about our trials and temptations. Anyone who is ill will want to find out about the illness and how it can be cured. Should we not be equally concerned about spiritual ill-health? There is a problem here: the more we think about the things that tempt us, the more likely we are to be tempted, for temptations gain strength over us when we continually think about them.

Such thoughts may seem innocent to an undiscerning mind but they are the beginnings of being led astray. As Proverbs 14:12 tells us:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

It’s much like a root. We can have very seemingly innocent thoughts but on closer examination they are in fact roots of something far more sinister. So what can we do to take these thoughts captive and shut the door, so to speak? Well, the Word tells us that we are to set our minds on things above not on the things on the earth, Colossians 3:2. Looking at this verse we see where we ought to be setting our minds. But when we look at the KJV of that verse it says:

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

This then would imply that where we set our minds we also set our affections. Well, then, I must ask myself now, where are my affections? Do I worry a lot? Under worry could come an almost immeasurable number of things such as aging, what our house looks like, money,and so on. Do I contemplate how I have been wronged and slip into self pity? Do I think a lot about getting a new job and yet neglect to help out in church? If so then my affections are not on things above but the of the earth. Matthew Henry writes:

Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. Observe, to seek heavenly things is to set our affections upon them, to love them and let our desires be towards them. Upon the wings of affection the heart soars upwards, and is carried forth towards spiritual and divine objects. We must acquaint ourselves with them, esteem them above all other things, and lay out ourselves in preparation for the enjoyment of them. David gave this proof of his loving the house of God, that he diligently sought after it, and prepared for it, Ps. 27:4. This is to be spiritually minded (Rom. 8:6), and to seek and desire a better country, that is, a heavenly, Heb. 11:14, Things on earth are here set in opposition to things above. We must not dote upon them, nor expect too much from them, that we may set our affections on heaven; for heaven and earth are contrary one to the other, and a supreme regard to both is inconsistent; and the prevalence of our affection to one will proportionably weaken and abate our affection to the other.

We must always be vigilant especially in our thought life taking extra care to be more diligent in the times of testing and trial. We live in this world so to some degree we will have hold of things in this world but our grip on them must be loose and not so tight. We must be able to easily let go of those things that will only perish. If they have our affections then we are holding too tightly! Hold fast to the heavenly. Let our thoughts and meditations be of the Beauty and Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. I love the following analogy by Owen:

Several advantages are to be expected from regularly thinking about heaven. In the same way as when one looks at the bright light and the image of that brightness afterwards blinds one to other sights for a while, so whoever meditates on heavenly glories will find desire for earthly things lessened.

Ways we can do this is to make sure we have our daily times with God in prayer and through the reading of His Word. Quoting John Owen again:

As another rule, let me ask whether spiritual thoughts flow in those times when we are quiet and free from our usual activities? Even the busiest persons have some times of quiet, whether they want to or not. Moments after waking, or before sleeping; journeying times; times when circumstances compel them to be alone. If we are spiritually minded, then spiritual thoughts will automatically and regularly claim such time for themselves. If they do not, is that not evidence that spiritual things are of little interest to our minds?

In conclusion then we can see that it is of utmost importance to fill our minds and thoughts on things above especially in our modern culture where we are bombarded with what the world says we should be concerning ourselves with. So next time you find yourself worrying and being distracted too much by the earthly take time out and focus on the heavenly. Let our thoughts glorify God and pray for more of His Grace when we feel weak.

References

John Owen, Thinking Spiritually.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Older Women, Younger Men

Nobody asked me to my senior prom. With only two months to go, things were looking bleak. So I took it upon myself to do the asking. I had set my sights on Brian. He was smart, handsome, funny, and extremely talented. He was quickly becoming one of the most popular boys in school, yet in spite of the approval Brian was receiving from others, I found myself at the center of gossip. Even with all his impressive adolescent credentials, Brian was still considered "aiming low." That's because Brian was a sophomore.

There were lots of seniors that year who chose dates that were two years younger. Nobody made fun of them. There did not seem to be any controversy over the older boys that had chosen younger girls to be their dates. But for me, an older girl, to be taken to the prom by a younger boy, well . . . that was nothing short of scandalous!

That was 1992. Yet not much has changed since then, has it? It is interesting to note how much "progress" same-sex couples have made in just the last 15 years alone, but the older woman/younger man combination is still largely taboo in today's society. Why is that?

I think the lack of acceptance these relationships receive is due to perceptions which are based purely on myth. Perhaps the biggest stigma attached to these relationships is the idea that the woman is always the seducer -- not the pursuer, the seducer. Research shows that this is not the case. In nearly all of these relationships, the man is still the pursuer. Yet films like The Graduate seem to have left the impression that women in these situations are not much different than Mrs. Robinson. Imagine - a film made over 40 years ago still has that much of an effect on people's perceptions about older women being courted by younger men!

I also think the idea itself is associated with feminist philosophy, yet I do not find this idea feminist at all. Somewhere along the line, we have mistaken age for leadership. A man does not need to be older than a woman to be a good leader, and a woman does not need to be younger than a man in order to demonstrate submission to that leadership. But I think the very presence of this myth is evidence for God's truth. Somehow, the world has indeed recognized that men are the natural leaders. It is easy to assume that if a man is older, he will do a better job of leading. He'll have more life experience, more knowledge, and more resources to be a better provider. Older men are seen as powerful (especially in the area of finances). Likewise, if a woman is older, it is tempting to assume she will "wear the pants" in the relationship. Somewhere along the line, we have mistaken age for leadership.

But God's truth does not discriminate on the basis of age. What makes a man a good leader is not that he is older than the woman, but that he possesses the character traits of a godly man. And a godly woman will demonstrate the qualities of Proverbs 31, regardless of her age. Films such as The Graduate add to the negative stereotype of these situations because the plot of the movie is scandalous in itself: Benjamin is in love with Elaine, but is sleeping with her mother. The circumstances surrounding the characters in this film are what make it somewhat akin to a Greek tragedy. But the age difference alone between Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson is not a sin!

Sadly, many women in these situations will allow themselves to feel vulnerable because they are afraid that the man will eventually leave them for a younger, more attractive woman. In All About Eve, our film of the month, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is romantically linked with a man who is 8 years her junior (Gary Merrill -- the two later pursued an offscreen romance and were eventually married in real life). Margo becomes insecure over the age difference and allows her fears to show through her cleverly delivered lines:

BILL: Your guests were also wondering whether the music couldn't be a shade more on the - shall we say, happier side?

MARGO: If my guests do not like it here, I suggest they accompany you to the nursery where I'm sure you will all feel more at home.

Older women need not fear that younger men will lose their attraction on the basis of age. This is because it is the inner qualities of an older woman that capture the younger man's attention. In fact, Dr. Joyce Brothers has been quoted as saying: "The younger man is attracted to an older woman most likely because of her poise, her social graces, her contacts. She has a polish he hasn’t yet acquired." It's true!

I personally have always found myself attracted to younger men. It's not because I feel a sense of accomplishment for conquering some patriarchal stereotype, but simply because I it seems that younger men who have an interest in me are really interested in me as a person. They have respect for my ideas and opinions. They aren't too proud to admit they can learn from me as much as I can learn from them. Unlike older men, they do not try to use their age or experience to compensate for a lack of leadership skills. There is a raw honesty there - one which says, "This is me, and I'm not going to try to hide the fact that I don't know everything." A younger man is not threatened by an older woman's accomplishments. Instead, he is inspired by them. He knows that the older woman once walked in his shoes, and if she can be successful, then so can he!

But what I find most attractive is that certain confidence which accompanies the man who is not too shy to pursue an older woman. Certainly there is also a confidence that comes with a woman who is not afraid to allow herself to be pursued by such a man.

And to that I say, Koo Koo Ka Choo!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Despised Yet Chosen

Despise, condemn, disdain, abhor, detest, disregard, hate, loathe.... I'm sure that everyone reading this article has at some point in their lives been treated badly by someone because they have felt one of the above towards you. It breaks my heart to hear stories of how people were bullied or mocked and no one stood with them. They were left to bear the pain, stigma and shame alone. When we hear some of the names people have been called it almost always boils down to one thing.....that person doesn't meet up to the world's standards of beauty, therefore they are the perfect targets for the bully. Granted, (and let me stress this point) some are actually bullied out of jealousy for their looks but in this article I want to look at those who, in the world's eyes are despised for not meeting its standards for worth. But we as Christians are reassured and know that this world's standard of "True Beauty" is not the same as God's.

I can speak from experience because I have been called names at school. If you look at those names then you can probably guess what "standards" I didn't meet. OK, for those of you reading who know me from school, you'll remember, I'm sure, what one of those names were.......Yes that's right, I became known as "Casper". Casper as in the friendly ghost because I have a very pale skin tone. Others of you reading may remember what or who you've been likened to. But we as Christians are reassured and know that this world's standard of "True Beauty" is not the same as God's. At this point we recall the verses of scripture in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (Emphasis Mine);

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

We see here that God chooses the weak, foolish and the base "according to worldly standards". The world will mock, laugh, and scorn all the more saying surely God would have chosen the strong, the wise and those of high estate to make the gospel more attractive and spread more quickly and effectively. They would not only choose so, but it would also apply all its "gimmicks". Yet, I must point out now, that what is fascinating today is that the world doesn't even think beauty is beautiful enough when they touch up photos using computer technology. Its standard therefore is a lie; it's unattainable and therefore will always bring misery to those pursuing it.Few of distinguished rank and character were called to be Christians.

But God chose otherwise "to convey the treasure of saving knowledge to the world". Matthew Henry does a wonderful job of expounding the above verses so I will quote him here:

None of the famous men for wisdom or eloquence were employed to plant the church or propagate the gospel. A few fishermen were called out, and sent upon this errand. These were commissioned to disciple the nations: these vessels chosen to convey the treasure of saving knowledge to the world. There was nothing in them that at first view looked grand or august enough to come from God; and the proud pretenders to learning and wisdom despised the doctrine for the sake of those who dispensed it. And yet the foolishness of God is wiser than men, v. 25. Those methods of divine conduct that vain men are apt to censure as unwise and weak have more true, solid, and successful wisdom in them, than all the learning and wisdom that are among men: "You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, v. 26, etc. You see the state of Christianity; not many men of learning, or authority, or honourable extraction, are called.’" There is a great deal of meanness and weakness in the outward appearance of our religion. But God seeth not as man seeth. For, (1.) Few of distinguished character in any of these respects were chosen for the work of the ministry. God did not choose philosophers, nor orators, nor statesmen, nor men of wealth and power and interest in the world, to publish the gospel of grace and peace. Not the wise men after the flesh, though men would apt to think that a reputation for wisdom and learning might have contributed much to the success of the gospel. Not the mighty and noble, however men might be apt to imagine that secular pomp and power would make way for its reception in the world. But God seeth not as man seeth. He hath chosen the foolish things of the world, the weak things of the world, the base and despicable things of the world, men of mean birth, of low rank, of no liberal education, to be the preachers of the gospel and planters of the church. His thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways as our ways. He is a better judge than we what instruments and measures will best serve the purposes of his glory. (2.) Few of distinguished rank and character were called to be Christians. As the teachers were poor and mean, so generally were the converts. Few of the wise, and mighty, and noble, embraced the doctrine of the cross. The first Christians, both among Jews and Greeks, were weak, and foolish, and base; men of mean furniture as to their mental improvements, and very mean rank and condition as to their outward estate; and yet what glorious discoveries are there of divine wisdom in the whole scheme of the gospel, and in this particular circumstance of its success!

Consider, for a moment, what happens to the remnant pieces of fabric in the craft/fabric stores. All the fabrics are in rolls, placed in such a position where the customer can see them. But almost always you will find a box on the floor with bundles of remnant pieces of fabric on sale for giveaway prices. Now many would have no use for these small pieces. But every now and then a individual will come in solely for what is to them much prized pieces! That person will take these pieces home and after hours of loving labour these pieces are now one...one big beautiful piece of patchwork! This is very much like how we are after God chooses us, those discarded pieces, and lovingly works on us, transforming us. I likened these pieces (see here) as the fruits of the Spirit sown together to form a beautiful garment of Grace. It is these graces worked in us by the Holy Spirit that are transforming us to Christ's likeness and that is God's standard for us. So we may be despised in the worlds eyes but we have been chosen and saved by Gods amazing Grace!

As I bring this post to a close I want to show why God chooses those He does. 1 Corinthians 1:29 has the answer:

so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Everything that we have is a gift from God. There is nothing we can boast about. Our looks, no matter how imperfect by the world's standards, are from God, the ability to work, to think, everything! And even when we are limited physically, and feel totally useless, as we surrender our lives totally to God the Father, He will use us for His Glory! God is so good and so wise! When we do have a moment and find ourselves focusing in on our imperfections think on these words from Robert Murray M'Cheyne:

"For every look at self, take ten looks at Christ."




Reference


Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. Can be accessed Here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

She's Ugly But She Sure Can Cook!

I am a huge fan of pop music of the 1950's and 1960's. As a child, I would listen to the oldies station on the radio and memorize both the lyrics and the backup vocals of songs that were made popular years before I was born. They seemed to take me back to a simpler time, where love and romance seemed far more pure, innocent, and genuine than the teenage dramas that were unfolding all around me. Although many of them had their share of "love at first sight" themes, many of these songs seemed to focus on character traits rather than physical attributes. The only problem with these songs was many of them insinuated that good character was not compatible with good looks. Consider the following select lyrics from these oldies but goodies:

The Temptations, Beauty's Only Skin Deep
Now, good looks, I've learned to do without.
'Cause now I know it's love that really counts.
A pretty face you may not possess,
but what I like about you is your tenderness

The Dave Clark Five, You Got What it Takes
Ow! You don't live in a beautiful place
And you don't dress in the best of taste
Nature didn't give you such a beautiful face
But baby, you got what it takes

And the Grand Poohba of all "Ugly Girl" Songs:

Jimmy Soul, If You Wanna Be Happy
Don't let your friends say you have no taste
Go ahead and marry her anyway
Her face is ugly, her eyes don't match
Take it from me, she's a better catch


If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you


(Spoken)Hey, Man! I saw your wife the other day!
Yeah?
Yeah and she's UGLY!
Yeah, she's ugly, but she sure can cook!

Physical attractiveness isn't everything, it's true. The Bible says that charm is deceitful and beauty is vain (Proverbs 31:30). It is the inner qualities of a woman that make her truly beautiful. But if a woman wishes to highlight her inner beauty, does that mean she needs to look like she was beaten with the ugly stick?

Many people embrace this philosophy, and will twist scripture to support it. They insist that women must be frumpy, plain, and unattractive in order to maintain their modesty. Here are the two scriptures from which many of these ideas originate:

Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3-4, NKJV)

In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9, NKJV)

The point of these scriptures is not that a woman cannot look her best on the outside. The point of these scriptures is that a woman should primarily seek to cultivate beauty from within. In 1 Peter 3, the word merely is added to the original text to clarify this idea. Women should look good on the outside, but it doesn't stop there. A pretty face with no substance underneath will surely leave others wondering, "Is this all there is?" If a woman wishes to highlight her inner beauty, does that mean she needs to look like she was beaten with the ugly stick?

Likewise, the verse in 1 Timothy is not suggesting that a woman should only be clothed in good works (otherwise she'd be naked!), instead it is reminding women that they should not seek to gain attention with the external. I do not think the text is saying it is wrong for women to wear makeup or jewelery or nice clothes. Rather, I think the text is warning women not to let their outer appearance upstage their inner beauty.

While it is true that physical attractiveness is often a catalyst for vanity, it is not always a symptom of conceit. Likewise, marrying a woman who is downright ugly is no guarantee of her humility. "Ugly people" are no further along the road to sanctification than anyone else. And contrary to Jimmy Soul's music, men do not go around bragging about how ugly their wives are to one another! Men greatly appreciate when their wives make an effort to look good for them. Feldhahn (2004) states: "In a way, this issue for men is like the romance issue for us," (p. 168). In essence, when you take care of yourself, it makes your husband feel loved.

Physical beauty isn't everything, but this does not imply that physical beauty is something that should be discarded in the interest of "holiness." Much like the expression, "Money isn't everything," money still holds a function, provided it is used correctly and in a godly way. In the same fashion, physical beauty does not necessarily subtract from from one's character. Modesty means that there is a balance. Everything is in moderation. True modesty means we are not overdoing it in any areas. Too many times we fear we are overdoing a good thing, but I believe it is possible to overdo a bad thing as well. In your efforts to be modest, are you "overdoing" it a bit in downplaying your looks?

Reference

Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Atlanta, GA: Multnomah.

Monday, September 1, 2008

All About Eve

Although I highly enjoy all the films of the month that we feature on this site, none has excited me as much as our film for September 2008. All About Eve is perhaps Hollywood's greatest story of an aging actress who finds herself scrambling to defend her career against a conniving, backstabbing diva. Bette Davis plays the aging Margo Channing, whose star is on the decline. Anne Baxter is Eve Harrington, the ambitious and driven young woman who uses her feminine charms to manipulate her way to the top. Both women deliver stellar performances and the film is loaded with issues that will resonate with women everywhere.

STATS
Year: 1950 (Not Rated)
Written and Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm.
Setting: New York City, 1950's.

Fourteen Oscar nominations (rivaled only by 1997's Titanic) and six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Content warning: No objectionable content observed.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The use of God-given feminine charms in an evil manner for the sole purpose of self-service. Watch as Eve displays many of the celebrated qualities of the Proverbs 31 woman in an effort to manipulate the people around her.

2. Aging as a threat to society's standards of physical beauty. Women struggle to both feel and appear desirable as they age.

3. The interesting dynamic when an older woman is romantically linked with a younger man.

4. Physical beauty is negated entirely, if not completely defiled, by ugly character. Lying to get what one wants is particularly unattractive.

5. The natural desire toward marriage and motherhood, in the end, eventually overrules even the greatest career ambitions.

TRIVIA
This film is loosely based on a true story surrounding the life of Elisabeth Bergner, a stage actress in the 1940's whose kindness toward a fan turned sour when the fan began to undermine her.

Does Anne Baxter look familiar to you? That's most likely because you recognize her as the sensuous Queen Nefretiri in Cecil B. DeMille's epic The Ten Commandments, starring Charleton Heston.

The film contains one of Marilyn Monroe's earliest screen appearances as Claudia Caswell, an aspiring starlet.