By ANNIE WESCHE
The living room was empty and I sat alone in the suffocating heat. I had lived in Haiti for more than a year already and had found ways to deal with the humidity, constant sweating, and even the rats, bats, and bugs. The joys and rewards of being there on God’s assignment far outweighed the small challenges I faced, but on this particular afternoon while sitting on an itchy sofa, I felt utterly worn down to a pile of self-pity and sweat. For days, we had been having exceptionally hot weather in a house with no AC, and I couldn’t find reprieve from the physical discomfort. Every piece of clothing I had was either torn or stained. My makeup and skincare products were nearly all gone. My eyebrows were bushy, my feet were calloused, my hair was fried by the hot Haitian sun, and I was constantly sweating. That all felt minor compared to the breakouts, bug bites, strange rashes, and touch of ring worm I was fighting on my skin. And the high-carb, sugar-heavy diet? Well, let’s just say it didn’t help how I was feeling about my appearance. Never had I felt so gross, ugly, and unfeminine. And after weeks of the discomfort and insecurity building up inside of me, I finally broke before the Lord.
God, please … this is so miserable! Life is already so hard here, do I have to be stripped of every ounce of beauty? I feel so disgusting and I just want to feel feminine again. Clean. Polished. Curled. Slender. God … help me, please!
Tears fell down over my cheeks as I cried out for relief. I knew I was supposed to be in Haiti, but I just wanted to hop on a plane and get away from it all—to get my hair cut and have a nice moisture treatment for my split ends, to get my nails done, and to eat salads and apples, and drink lemon water. I wanted AIR CONDITIONING and the feeling of new, clean clothes on my skin.
With all the need surrounding me, I hated that I was so tripped up over my appearance, and yet there I was with my eyes on everything that was miserable about my state. I allowed my thoughts to become consumed with all that I wanted but didn’t have. And I cried out to God in frustration.
But His tender reply was simply, “Annie, do you know what is beautiful to Me?”
In God’s mercy, that was all it took to quiet my heart. It was as if God had reached His hand down and gently lifted up my chin so my eyes could get off of myself and look directly into His face. He spoke the words of 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (NIV).
I could see it. God was actually giving me the most wonderful opportunity. A refining work where He had allowed every external representation of beauty that I desired to be removed so that I could learn to cultivate what was truly beautiful to Him — the inner beauty of His life.
There is virtue in keeping oneself well-groomed, and putting effort into dressing like a lady. In the NKJV, 1 Peter 3:3-4 says, “Do not let your adornment be merely outward.” We can express dignity, respect, and honor through our appearance — first unto the Lord and then towards others and for ourselves. But we cannot measure our worth in external beauty — something that fades and changes with the opinion of men. As women of God, let us guard our hearts from heading down that road of false worth and worldly distraction, and instead, go after what our Beloved finds truly beautiful. Because it’s that beauty that will leave a lasting impact upon the world around us. When we leave someone’s company, let us leave them with the knowledge of who Jesus is—His kindness in our words, His joy in our countenance, and His love in our actions!
Dear sisters, find grace for this in the loving arms and powerful truth of your Savior. He gives grace and delights to help us walk down this road of true beauty. The women I have found most beautiful are not women I want to look like, but women of God whom I wish to be like as they love, serve, follow, and live completely given to Jesus Christ. That beauty not only won’t fade away, but, when it is daily cultivated in the presence and pursuit of Jesus, only grows more and more beautiful. And nothing — not even sweat, dirt, split-ends, old clothes, or a few extra pounds can dull its radiance!