Several years ago I attended a convention for religious broadcasters in the United States. I was representing the ministry I worked for at the time, which had a radio segment that aired all over the country. We were at the convention to network, meet other broadcasters, and get the ministry’s name out there.
To my surprise, the convention itself was actually very exciting. I got to meet well-known Christian authors, I saw a pre-screening of The Passion movie, and I had fascinating conversations with ministries from all over the U.S. Overall, it was a great experience.
However, there is one thing about the convention that stands out in my mind, one thing that I will never forget. It serves as a kind of accountability for me in my own ministry today…
Because the convention was for religious broadcasters, there were a number of Christian t.v. shows present, along with their hosts. And let me tell you, the women who hosted those shows were BEAUTIFUL! They walked around that convention hall with perfect hair, perfect make-up and perfect clothes. They were incredibly put together and flawless, these successful Christian women, and that is when the first seed of self-doubt planted itself in my heart.
I looked at those women, who were smart and driven and had already accomplished a lot in ministry, and then I looked at myself–my hair was flat, my clothes were boring, and Lysa, the president of the ministry, had to help me put on my make-up because I was so pathetic at it. I was far from perfect.
So as I observed those flawless women and then compared myself to them, I thought to myself, “If this is what it means to be a successful women’s minister, then I clearly don’t measure up.”
I still find myself thinking that today. I look at women like Beth Moore, who is not only a powerful writer and speaker, but is also drop-dead gorgeous, and I feel as though I fall miserably short. I believe the lie that the perfect Christian woman has got to be the whole package, which poses a problem for me since I bite my finger nails, I can never figure out how to get my hair to look right, and I’m barely tall enough to see over the steering wheel. The whole package? That, I am not.
On a head level, I think we all know how faulty that logic is. Scripture is full of verses about how God looks at the inside and not the outside. That message is clear. But the reason my experience at the convention was so definitive for me as a women’s minister is that it made me pause and wonder–Do I ever make other women feel insecure about themselves? Do I convey the message that looking put together and perfect is an important part of being a Christian woman? Do I spend so much time primping and looking cute that I compromise my witness? While I may tell young women that outward beauty doesn’t matter, do my actions undermine my words?
Well I recently discovered that Paul talks about this very thing in 1 Corinthians 2 when he explains to the Corinthian church the he did not come to them with “eloquence” or “persuasive words.” This point is significant because Paul was extremely educated and well-versed in the art of rhetoric. He was very capable of speaking articulately and persuasively. But he instead chose to keep it simple.
Why? Because he didn’t want the presentation to distract people from the message. He didn’t want his listeners to be so impressed by his rhetorical gifts that they missed out on what he was actually saying.
And Christian women do well to keep this teaching in mind. We must not let the presentation distract people from the message. This principle can play out in any number of ways, but one of the most salient examples is the way we present ourselves outwardly. If we are trying to encourage one another to focus on inward beauty, but we spend excessive amounts of time on our outward beauty, then we will undermine our message. Rather than spurring women toward the Gospel, we’ll be encouraging their insecurities, self-doubt, and vanity.
Now that is not to say that we should wear burlap sacks and stop washing our hair–it’s definitely ok to look nice! God created us to be beautiful and we should celebrate that fact. But I am writing this as a kind of heart check. We need to examine our motives in how much time we spend on our outward beauty. Are you spending time on your outward appearance for the glory of God, or in order to feel better about yourself? And more importantly, do you spend as much time working on your inward beauty as do you your outward beauty?
I, for one, hope that in my time as a women’s minister, I have never misled women into thinking that being the “perfect Christian woman” means looking flawless and put together. If I have, I apologize greatly and ask for forgiveness. But the truth of the matter is that there is no “perfect Christian woman.” By that I mean that there isn’t ONE standard to which we should all strive. God created us to be unique and diverse because each one of us reflects His infinite majesty in our own special way. If we aspire to fit in a cookie cutter mold, then we’ll erase the unique beauty in each one of us, and thereby steal a little bit of glory away from God. The only standard that we should all be seeking is holiness, so if there is any message that I want my life to convey, it is the importance of pursuing Him. Anything else is just a distraction.