The maker of the iconic Barbie doll recently announced the creation of different shapes and sizes of Barbie – including a tall, petite, and curvy version of the thin, busty doll you and I grew up playing with. Upon the release of this news, I watched social media outlets explode with discussion of the new dolls, the overall sentiment from women being, “It’s about darn time!” We seemed to be simultaneously angry at the company that this redesign took so long, and grateful to them for finally pulling it off. Apparently, women have been in desperate need for someone to change the prototype of beauty, and who better than a creator of dolls, toys, and other playthings to do that on our behalf? Not to be glib, ladies, but it seems to me that we’ve been “looking for love in all the wrong places”. The upside of all this Barbie brouhaha is this: Perhaps in the frantic attempt to repair our badly broken standards of beauty, we’ll finally succeed in accurately identifying the problem. That being: the only one who has the right to define beauty is the God who created it.
Knowing this, I wish I could say I had long since abandoned my disquieting preoccupation with a more Barbie-like version of myself. That I had pushed aside the slippery societal ideals of what it is to be beautiful in favor of more worthy pursuits. The truth, though, is that I’m as guilty of perpetuating these false notions of beauty as anyone I’m tempted to blame. I’ve willingly yoked myself to the culturally constructed standards of beauty I abhor; concurrently hating the standards for existing and hating myself for not meeting them. I’ve demonized the body God gave me and I’ve idolized the body God gave me. I’ve thought too little of it, and I’ve thought way too much about it. Not because this is what culture has trained me to do, but because it is what I have chosen to do. Like Eve, when given the opportunity to turn away from the lie, I instead took of it and ate, I greedily consumed. And after more than 30 years of eating of the same tainted fruit, I am battle-weary from the war I’ve waged against my very own form.
Maybe you’re right here with me – weary from a battle that assaults our bodies and distracts our souls. I assume there are countless of us gathered right here in this very place. So what might happen if we refuse to partake of the lies any longer?
If we stopped judging ourselves and each other based on outward appearance?
If we resisted the urge to even describe ourselves in these ways?
If we refused to bow down to the idol of beauty any longer and used God’s opinion on beauty to rightly orient ourselves to it?
What might happen if we set our hearts intently on His standard of beauty instead?
So what does the one who has “made everything beautiful in it’s time” say about beauty, anyway? Given the insane amount of emphasis you and I place on the topic, the Bible says surprising little about it, which is telling, in and of itself. However, the overall gist of God’s sparse words on beauty is that it has absolutely nothing to do with external appearance. You hear that? Absolutely nothing. We were the ones who first linked beauty to hue of skin, color of hair, size of waist, or the shape of one’s body – not God. Indeed, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). One of the few things that is said about external beauty in the Bible is that is vain, empty, fleeting at best (Proverbs 31:30), and that we should not overly concern ourselves with it (1 Peter 3:3-4). God seemed to punctuate His feelings toward man’s great esteem of physical beauty by creating Jesus’ bodily form to be altogether unattractive. In the only description of Jesus’ physical body in the Bible, Isaiah 53:2 describes Him as such; “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” In a full-frontal assault against the enemy’s lies concerning the significance of outward appearance, the most lovely person to ever walk this earth was intentionally made not beautiful – as if to emphasize just how trivial physical appearance really is.
Despite the complete lack of commentary on what makes one’s outward appearance beautiful, God’s word is replete with descriptions of what makes one inwardly beautiful. Those who are poor in spirit, and pure of heart are beautiful in the eyes of God. As are the merciful, the meek, the faithful, and kind. Those who are compassionate, joyful, thankful and loving. Those who walk in humility, forgiveness, gentleness and self-control. This is the type of beauty that God esteems (Colossians 3:12-15, Galatians 5:22-23, Matthew 5:1-10). What we must note about these characteristics is that they can only be attained through a deepening knowledge of God, because outside of Him there is no beauty and there exists no other being that can rightly deem anything beautiful. In a world so heart-sick for authentic beauty that we attempt to fashion it for ourselves through the creation of small plastic dolls, you and I have the chance to reflect the only One who is truly beautiful. Therefore, as beings created in His image, let’s push our playthings aside, so that we can more diligently pursue the one who created us to be beautiful.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. Psalm 45:11
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