How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”
A few years ago my daughter looked at me one day and asked a doozy of a question.
“Um, Mom? Why is your skin SO white?”
I really wanted to respond by quoting the line from the movie Mean Girls, “Oh my gosh, you can’t just ask someone why they’re white.” But instead I explained that my genetic lack of melanin causes me to be very, very, very pale.
She decided to make her point clearer despite my scientific explanation.
“Oh. Well I like dark skin better.”
My daughter is clearly planning to own a tanning salon someday.
I pretended to be mature. I refused to point out that although she may be a shade darker than her mother, she’s still pretty pasty, too. Had I wanted to be a horrible person, I could have really taken her down that day.
(Not that I should have. But I could have.)
I needed what my daughter couldn’t offer me at that point in her maturity: some empathy. I grew up with very pale white skin in Hawaiian-Tropics-loving 1980s Southern California. All the teasing of my youth centered on how I practically glow in the dark. In our house, a girl can’t just ask Mom why she’s so white. It gets complicated.
It’s especially complicated because I know my security and confidence will be the foundation for my daughter’s understanding of the difference between being beautiful and looking beautiful.
The girls of today are in danger of falling prey to all the same insecurities that sent us headlong into eating disorders, comparison, and perfectionism. Our ideas about beauty began being photoshopped around the time we hit puberty, but the girls of the new millennium have been looking at impossibly unnatural magazine covers and those strangely drawn Disney princesses with the giant eyes, chests, and tiny waists since they exited the womb.
This new generation of girls are watching and taking notes about how we define beauty. A few months after the why-are-you-so-white incident, my daughter noticed a few other details about me.
“Mommy, you have a lot of wrinkles, And your arms are all jiggly. It’s sort of weird.”
I was like, “I know you are but what am I? I am rubber you are glue! Sticks and stones, Girlfriend. Sticksand stones.”
Just kidding. I didn’t respond with any of those words. Instead I answered her with the same words I use to fight the world’s critical voice when it taunts me:
“I have wrinkles and jiggly arms because I’m becoming a beautiful older woman, who has lived and laughed and loved for a long, long time. These marks only all add to my beauty and character. It’s vital for you to remember this: God only makes beautiful people.Someday I will be a very old lady with shining grey hair and tiny age spots on my hands, and I will always be beautiful because I will always be God’s beloved daughter. So will you.”
I say all of this to her because when I first held my daughter in my arms and marveled at her magnificence, I decided one thing: The lies end here.
Ending the lies is what it will take to change the whole world one girl at a time. Yes, it feels like middle school all over again because they are sizing us up just like the mean girls did when we were thirteen. The girls of today are comparing us with themselves and every other woman they admire, and their criticism could consume us if we let it.
If we let their criticism consume us, the cancer of comparison will consume them, too.
God’s great good news is this: We are all beautiful enough. Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and while the world’s definition of beauty will send us running for creams and procedures and ways to cover up our fear with new treatments, God’s definition of beauty centers on how far our feet will run to carry good news to the world.
The good news is that we can stop trying so hard to be perfect because we all belong to God as sisters and friends. There is room for all of us at this table called Beautiful and Beloved. We can relax at this table, knowing that beauty and belonging are not competitions, but gifts God has given us through the gospel.
There is no scarcity of beauty. One woman’s flawless face doesn’t mean the rest of us will never measure up. There are many ways to be beautiful, and they all begin with the decision to love who God made us to be in the deepest place of our being.
If no one has told you this today, you are unbelievably beautiful. You radiate with God’s gorgeous presence. Between here and heaven, you will change and grow older and wiser. The world will try to haze you and make you afraid. But the world is liar, and the lies really can stop here.
Be God’s messenger of good news for your generation and the next. Believe that God is the author of beauty; that you are one of his most stunning creations. Tell every woman you see how beautiful she is and that God adores her.
May the truth set us all free.