Thursday, November 20, 2008

Getting Past the Mirror

Throughout history, women have sought to find identity in their physical appearance. While young boys aspire to play professional football to prove their strength, little girls dream of becoming Miss America to verify their beauty.

In the United States alone, women spend more money annually on beauty products than the nation spends on education. Over six billion dollars is spent on makeup alone. So in some distorted way, the image of beauty is fixated on a solitary crown that must be won before the age of twenty-four or pre-packaged dyes that will inevitably empty over time.

External beauty is where too many women, God-fearing women included, strive to find their value. Proverbs 31:31 is a beautiful reminder that this type of beauty fades, but eternal beauty in a relationship with God continues to develop as one grows in daily fellowship with Him. Instead of dwindling like cosmetics, biblical women can become more beautiful with each day.

In Ways of Seeing, Berger acknowledges that women live in a self-conscious world. A woman has “to survey everything she is and everything she does because how she appears to others, and ultimately how she appears to men, is of crucial importance for what is normally thought of as the success of her life.” He insists that this pattern is instilled from a young age, and he appears to be correct. In 1998, Exeter University conducted a study of 37,500 girls between the ages of twelve and fifteen. Over half (57.5%) listed appearance as the biggest concern in their lives.

It would be easy to blame the today’s media for this phenomenon in today’s age of airbrushing magazine photographs and misleading “beautiful” icons. A study done in 2000 even showed that the average Miss America is 12% underweight and 2% taller than the average female. Today’s culture does give out its share of mixed signals. However, society began training the general public that appearance is everything long ago. For instance, it can be traced back to 650 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Daniel 1:4 lists the first two characteristics he desired in those he wished to take back to Babylon as youthful and good-looking.

As Andreas K√∂stenberger has argued, many Christian self-help books rely more on secular teachings than biblical foundations. The problem begins with the label placed on this genre of literature. Christians should not rely on “self-help” books. God is
the ultimate Helper, and He has provided answers to life problems throughout His Word. Believers simply create more conflict in life when they attempt to map a plan for themselves rather than placing trust in God. For that reason, the primary text for this series will be the Bible itself, examining it as a whole to embrace God’s definition of beauty and avoid superficial cures for false instruction from a fallen world.

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