Well, there is quite a discussion going on over at Sunshine Mary’s place regarding beauty regimens for wives. I’ve been thinking on this post for quite some time, but her essay birthed an urgency in my mind, so here are some further thoughts on the matter. It helps that I can think clearly now that my fingers and toes are beginning to thaw…perhaps the spring weather has finally arrived in my neck o’ the woods.
Alas, moving back to the topic at hand: beauty in the Christian wife, mother, daughter, and woman in general. How are we to be beautiful to our husbands, as our lord and authority in the earthly realm? How are we to show forth the image of our Creator, who creates beauty, to an ugly world?
The Pentecostal ladies believe we are to be beautiful while being rather plain: these ladies do not wear makeup, they do not pierce their ears and wear earrings or jewelry other than a wedding band, and they do not cut their hair except a trim or bangs. They wear long skirts, showcasing only their ankles. They wear high necklines, citing modesty in all circumstances. They wear their long hair in large buns atop their heads, and in the South, where I was raised, you could measure the success of a Pentecostal prayer meeting by the number of Bobby Pins lying on the sanctuary floor afterwards! Those ladies can ROCK the buns! (the ones on their heads…)
The Assemblies of God (successors of the Pentecostal movement) believe the Pentecostal ladies got into a bit too much legalism, and relaxed their standards a bit. Some of them have swung to the opposite side of the pendulum: anything goes, including women in the Pulpit on Sunday Morning, or pew-sitters in miniskirts without hosiery.
I’ve noticed that the Baptists really haven’t taken much of a stance, although they do seem to expect conservative dress in women. Much of the “Non-Demoninational World” looks just LIKE the “world” in dress, at least when it comes to Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes: over the knee skirts for ladies, thongs visible when sitting or kneeling, no hosiery (bare legs) in church, plunging necklines in young and older women alike, lots of makeup and lots of jewelry. Oh, and lots of perfume. And at least one tattoo.
So where is the plumb-line of Godly adornment and dress for the Bible believing woman of faith? Does it depend upon her church? Should she ask her husband? What if he has no preference (or says that he has no preference out of fear of the wrath of his wife?) Is she to ask her Pastor’s wife? It’s likely that her Pastor’s wife dresses immodestly, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, like an ad slick from a Salvation Army Store flyer for used dresses from the 1990’s. Why is it so complicated?
I know that I thought it to be complicated when I came to Christ a little over ten years ago. At the time, my wardrobe was a hybrid of street walker meets beach bum. Literally. I owned a closet full of semi-translucent sarong skirts, a dresser full of unlined tank tops, no hosiery (it’s actually ILLEGAL in the beach town where I lived), flip-flops, two bras (not padded for modesty) and about two dozen bikinis. Throw in a couple of pairs of heels for New Year’s and Christmas parties, and a couple of pairs of jeans for the “cold” (50 degree) winter, and there you have it. I went to work in a bikini and covering sarong and worked barefoot making jewelry, so you can imagine.
Toss in the fact that I had no idea what “modest” meant, other than boring! I did not own a slip and didn’t think it was a necessary garment for a lady (even in the blaring, South Texas sun). Makeup just melted off my face, so other than sunscreen and mascara, a little lip gloss and some bronzer for “winter”, there wasn’t a need.
You can imagine the shock when I became a Christian and didn’t know how to be “pretty” without all this slutty-hippie-beach get-up! Thankfully, God has a grande sense of humor: he moved me from the bottom of the U.S. to the top of the U.S. shortly thereafter (obviously, so I would be forced to wear more clothing), and it became embarrassingly obvious that I had no clue how to achieve feminine beauty which also honored God.
For awhile I had no style whatsoever, and I attempted to imitate the dress of those who attended the same church. This was an exercise in futility; I wasn’t myself. I felt as though I was wearing someone else’s clothing, and often, I was borrowing something. Slowly, I began to venture out and shop and develop my own true style: long, feminine skirts in soft, flowing fabrics and softly cut tops in sweet, feminine colors. A lot of boots, and the two pair of cowboy boots I saved and moved from Texas, were incorporated with the long skirts. A new, modest, feminine style emerged and I was pleased!
My husband loved my style, especially the skirts coming from a culture where a woman in a skirt is a rare sight, indeed. He loved my heels, and he loved my western boots. He liked my makeup, but quickly made mention of the fact that he wanted more COLOR. He liked my dyed auburn hair, but when he discovered the natural color hiding underneath, he wanted the natural, “real” me and implored me to grow out the color.
Did my new wardrobe make me a Godly woman? Did my makeup, pleasing to my husband, make me an honorable woman before God? Probably not, though these are good things. It is good to honor one’s own husband by seeking to fulfill his requests in physical appearance and grooming, and indeed, it is an outward symbol of an inwardly submissive heart.
That being said, a woman can be quite beautiful on the outside, and a royal beast of a rebellious harpy on the inside! Trust me on this one…Col. T and I walked through quite a season of my learning how to cultivate an INNER beauty of quietness and submission. 1 Peter 3:3-4
The bible says that “Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” Prov. 31:30
Therefore, it is wonderful to make ourselves beautiful for our husbands, and to honor God in modest dress. It is good to care for the Temple of the Holy Spirit. However, the more excellent way is to ensure that, prior to focusing on the outside of our vessel, we focus with God on the inside.
The bible also says that the fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Proverbs 9:10. Therefore, if we want to be a woman worthy of praise (our husband’s praise, or our children’s), then we will first seek to fear the Lord. If we fear the Lord, we will have a foundation of wisdom to build upon. God will bless us with wisdom from above on how to further renew our minds in line with His word, and how to further improve the inside of our vessel, which will RESULT in the renewal of the outside of our vessel!
You see, I tried in my flesh to become beautiful and pleasing to the eye by developing a fashion sense and a certain flair and style, and by being more “feminine” than the surrounding androgynous culture. This worked to a degree, but I still lacked a truly respectful heart towards my heavenly Father as LORD, and to my earthly husband as lord over our household and children. It was only after I began to allow the Lord God to humble my heart about my attitude toward my husband as my lord that I began to soften a bit.
With that inner softness came an outward softness as well, which is still a work in progress. There was less “fight” in me against my husband, and even others. There was a softness in my speech that didn’t exist prior, and oddly, a softness to my hair and skin that became radically apparent to my husband and me!
A lot of the anger I felt became subdued (though I still struggle with this issue). It’s harder to be angry all of the time when you are walking in true femininity, which is submission to God and husband, than when you are walking in rebellion. It truly affects the countenance, and I noticed that I was smiling in photographs more often than frowning or scowling that feminist scowl (you know what I’m talking about!).
Of course, to a degree, beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, so it is imperative that we obey our husbands by attempting to fulfill their desires. BUT: we ought not forget that we cannot just seek to clean the outside of the cup and leave the inside full of dead men’s bones. We must allow God to cultivate a gentle and submissive spirit toward our husbands (or fathers, if we are unmarried) and we must seek to honor our heavenly father FIRST, because this is the greatest gift we can give to our husbands. We can become women worthy of his praise.
The journey is never over. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Cor. 3:18. Whether we are single and seeking to please only our Heavenly Father and submit to Him and our earthly father, or whether we are married and seeking to please our Heavenly Father by way of serving our earthly husband and lord, we are transformed a bit at a time.
We ought not be discouraged along the way, but encouraged that we are making progress each time God reveals something new to us about how to achieve real and lasting beauty.