Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt self-conscious about your appearance.
If you were being honest, I bet most of you raised your hand. Let’s face it: We live in a world where “beautiful” is defined by your pants size, bra size and flawless skin. We live in a society that is saturated with advertisements, beauty magazines and runway models. How many of you think, “If only I looked like that …” when watching a fashion show or flipping through a magazine? I have.
In her book Bossypants, actress and comedian Tina Fey writes about the “ideal woman”:
Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.
Language aside, Fey sums it up pretty accurately. When we pay attention to everything the world suggests we should look like and aspire to be like, these are a lot of the characteristics we get.
Let me be honest with you—I spent years hating my appearance. I didn’t know what to say when someone said I looked nice or complimented me in other ways. I normally turned it around and said something self-deprecating. I still catch myself doing this at times. Finally, someone said this to me:
“God made you. He created you in His image. He fashioned you uniquely and wonderfully with His hands. If you’re criticizing everything about yourself, what are you saying about Him?”
It’s like looking at a painting and pointing out a tiny mistake without looking at the image as a whole. What does that say about the artist who poured time and love into his creation?
In the psalms, David wrote, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).
In the Book of Proverbs, a woman is described. This woman looks nothing like the one Tina Fey described. Scripture describes this woman as “far more precious than jewels.” This woman is hardworking. She is cherished by her husband. She is trustworthy. She is a caring wife. She’s a businesswoman. She rises early to care for her family. She is strong and wise. She works with her hands. She’s generous and loving. She’s kind and compassionate. She fears the Lord.
Those qualities are what make her beautiful.
An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates. – Proverbs 31:10–31
Notice that these verses say nothing about her skin tone, her body shape or her hair color. I imagine she has calloused hands, stretch marks and blistered feet. I would assume her hair is starting to gray and laugh lines are starting to form. This passage reminds us that “beauty is vain,” but the life of the woman is what matters.
Sisters, we’ll never be perfect. It’s unattainable. In fact, the Proverbs 31 woman may seem unattainable, too. But let this Scripture be our model—not the “how-to” guides in magazines. You’re far more precious than jewels.