Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Biblical Review of Superficial - (Not the Heidi Montag Album)


I was standing in the checkout line of the grocery store. Inevitably, those "trusty" magazine racks were there to ensure I was entertained while I waited. I saw a picture of a girl I almost recognized on the cover of People magazine with the caption "Not Addicted to Plastic Surgery." Looking closely, I realized it was Heidi Montag of the MTV reality show, The Hills.

Before Heidi ever celebrated her 21st birthday, she was no stranger to plastic surgery. She'd already had breast augmentation, lip collagen injections and a nose job. Now 23, she's unveiled herself this week to reveal the results of the 10 procedures she had done in November: mini brow lift, botox in forehead and frown area, nose job revision, fat injections in cheeks, nasolabial folds and lips, chin reduction, neck liposuction, ears pinned back, breast augmentation revision, liposuction on waist, hips, outer and inner thighs and buttock augmentation.

Are you serious?

But she's not alone. About 2 million people in the USA subject themselves to plastic surgery each year. Not so shocking, more females undergo these procedures than males. More shocking: Rather than most of the surgeries being done by older women attempting to reverse or stall the aging process, most patients are younger rather than older.

Many different factors effect my opinion on plastic surgery. The underlying motivation for any unnecessary cosmetic procedure is vanity, which means you've made yourself your own idol. I used to think that only arrogant people were the ones who idolized themselves. However, throughout my recovery from anorexia, I realized that even though I had a very low opinion of myself, my thoughts and actions still revolved all around me. I was my own idol just as much as someone who thinks too highly of themselves. The Bible warns against both conceit (Philippians 2:3-4) and putting too much focus on our appearance (1 Timothy 2:9).

Not to mention, there's the practical side of the argument. These procedures are wildly expensive and not covered by insurance. In addition, recovery time for most surgeries is 6-8 weeks. Not even mentioning the pain and discomfort, that's a long time to be away from responsibilities- whether your job, school, or simply being an ambassador for Christ. Plastic surgery doesn't seem to go along with the Bible's teaching of being wise with the resources God entrusts to us (Proverbs 11:24-25; Luke 16:10-12).

But it doesn't end there. Once you put yourself into the slippery slope of being overly concerned with the approval of the world, lines get fuzzy, decisions become difficult, and before you know it, boundaries get crossed.

Take a close look at the girl on the left. Sure, she may not be the curviest woman to ever walk the red carpet. Her hair has some flyaways, and Hollywood stylists would probably say she's not wearing enough makeup for the camera. One thing is for sure though: she has a killer smile - a smile that starts with her mouth as if she's beginning to laugh and spreads up to her eyes lit up with life.

The girl on the right doesn't have that. Her nose may be perfectly-shaped, and she may have more of the dream silhouette figure, but that smile is gone. Her eyes are lifeless. Her mouth is attempting to curve up in a smile, but it doesn't cover up the fact that she just looks sad. It's as if these two pictures aren't of the same person.

Heidi's bio on Twitter simply reads, "I love Jesus!" In an interview with USA Today, she talks about reading her Bible regularly and describes herself as "kind of a non-denominational Baptist. I have been the most religious person since I was 2 years old. I always felt this crazy connection to God."

Yet, one of her recent tweets invites you to download her new music album on iTunes (somewhat appropriately titled Superficial) -- with links to both the clean version and the explicit version. In 2009, she posed for an extremely provocative photo spread for Maxim...then posed completely naked for Playboy just a few months later.

I just want to shake some sense into her.

I assure you, my desire to shake her doesn't stem from judgement. I've made just as many mistakes as she has - perhaps more. But as someone who has been there, who has tried to live both following God and being of the world, I wish I could tell her it doesn't work. That's a hard life to live.

Trying to remember how you're supposed to act every place you go, searching to remember what actions are acceptable in which places, desperately seeking for approval of whoever is around whenever they're around....it's exhausting.

In Matthew 15:8, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah in a discussion with the Pharisees: "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."

So many of us get trapped into the same thing. We know the right answers we are supposed to say while we're at church or around other believers. Yet, we let the condition of the world have a greater impact on our lives than the teachings of God - the world that seeks to condition us to believe that our society used to be too conservative. We've evolved. We've changed with times. Things that were once unacceptable are now okay. Go ahead. Let loose. Live a little!

But that's not the case. Times change. God doesn't. No matter how much applause I get from people on this earth, it never fills the void of my deepest desire to have the approval of the One who created me.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). Even Dr. 90210 cannot hold back the hands of time. All cosmetic surgeries will become lost with aging. Everything that's lifted now will eventually sag. No amount of botox will be able to control the wrinkles forever.

Though I love getting dressed up, trying new beauty products and dressing up jeans and a t-shirt with funky accessories as much as the next female, I try to remind myself often that the only thing really worth beautifying is who I am on the inside: “that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight” (1 Peter 3:4).

This is not a post to question the salvation of Heidi Montag -- or even of anyone who has had plastic surgery done. I just want to offer a different perspective, so I leave you with imagery that I remind myself on days when I find myself being too consumed with what the world sees on the outside.

Imagine your Creator forming you in your mother's womb. He gets excited as He decides on every feature. He gives you your father's dimples, your mother's hair, and even throws in your grandmother's smile. He knows that when she dies when you're only 8-years-old, that smile will comfort your mother in her mother's absence. He gives you a dose of determination, even though He knows that will undoubtably manifest itself frequently in the form of stubbornness. He thinks about your life with a smile as He makes the finishing touches - the lives you will touch, how He will use you.

He also knows you will have moments where you will disobey Him. He'll guide you in the way you should go, and you'll defiantly turn against Him. But each time you return to His loving arms, expressing your regret, He'll hold you like you never left...just like He's holding you now.

And though it happens every time He creates one of His children, it never gets old. Each child He creates has a unique purpose, a hope, and a future. He thinks about how much He loves you in those few precious moments He has with just you...before anyone else even knows you exist.

The next time we're challenged to be superficial - whether with our looks or our behaviors - let's fight the urge to be plastic and pray for God to perform surgery on our hearts to align them with His. As Deuteronomy 30:6 says, "The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live."


Gabrielle said...

Michelle - what an amazing and NEEDED post. I love the way you ended it, how moving to have a glimpse of how God sees us. What would happen if we spent more time staring at God's reflection of us, rather than the mirror? Fabulous job!

Tori T said...

fieI think one of the craziest Biblical realizations for me was that my self-deprecation and preoccupation with the things I didn't like about myself was just as bad as those who were in love with themselves. Humility is not the same thing as loathing yourself! I was amazed that while trying to avoid sin, I had been living in it. I think that's such a huge misconception with Christian women. God created you in His image and it is ok to be ok with yourself. Self-loathing and self-loving are both sinful and vain.

Tim & Kelly Black said...

I really like this post's quotation about what God feels when He creates us. I teach a Bible study and might like to use it one day, and would like to credit the source. Did you write it or is it from another source? If you could post the answer to that, I would really appreciate it. If it's your original quotation, than I'll credit you. If it's someone else, I'd like to be able that person. Either way, it's fantastic.
By the way, I found you through a link on one of Bethany McAtee's Facebook status updates, and think you are a very gifted writer. Your entry about the women posting their bra color on Facebook gave voice to a nagging feeling I had about it that I could not put my finger on. I've since gone back and read some other things that you've written. I hope you continue to use this blog, and other opportunities, as outlets for good Christian witness. Thank you for sharing yourself!

Michelle Myers said...

Gab - thanks so much! Tori - I agree. That was one of my revelations! Kelly - Thank you so much for your encouragement. I did write the ending quotation. Again, I really appreciate your kind words! God bless you!

Ruby said...

Very moving post... (of course, it doesn't take much to make a pregnant woman cry, haha!) and very true. I find it sad that Ms Montag is going that route. Or anyone - the past year I heard a couple of stories of young mothers (one with 2 year old twins and one with a couple of kids aged 4-6) dying on the operating table whilst having liposuction.

kristin said...

i think she was more beautiful the way she was.