Where Real Beauty Comes From
By Leslie Ludy
CBN.com It happened when I was fourteen.
Somewhere between encountering the sultry Victoria’s Secret model in a push-up bra and thong, and reading the “total body makeover” article (complete with a three-page bikini shopping guide) in the new issue of my favorite magazine, I made the decision. Somewhere between watching a beautiful young pop star swivel-hip on stage as thousands of guys lustfully cheered, and living vicariously through a perfectly-proportioned actress as she found true love with a hot guy in the latest romantic comedy, I decided what I wanted to become … an alluring young woman.
It’s not that I wanted to be seen as trashy or loose. But I wanted to be beautiful enough that guys would drool over me. I wanted to be the kind of girl who looked incredible in a swimsuit, the kind of girl who somehow achieved flawless skin, perfect hair, pouty lips, and dazzling white teeth while shrugging the whole thing off with an “I know I’m gorgeous but I don’t really care” attitude.
I was raised in church and accepted Christ into my heart as a child at vacation Bible school. Growing up, I knew that God had certain standards I was supposed to meet. I wanted to be pleasing to God. But I also wanted to be pleasing to the world. From the time I was twelve or thirteen, I began listening to lackadaisical Christian messages that justified my preoccupation with selfishness and pleasure. Fortunately for me, these were not hard to find.
“Five Ways to Have Fun with Your Friends” was the title of an article in a Christian magazine for young women that my parents had subscribed to on my behalf in the hopes that it would be a good influence on me. The article gave suggestions such as going to the mall and seeing who could buy the most creative thing for five dollars, staying up all night having a chick-flick marathon, and holding a lip-sinking contest to your favorite pop songs. In other words, spending hours at the mall listening to countless messages of “here’s how to be sexy” and “here’s the latest thing that will make you cool!” was perfectly acceptable. Drinking in Hollywood’s philosophy of romance and femininity was no big deal. And imitating a pop star’s sultry rendition of a song about love-gone-wrong was just harmless fun.
“Which Hollywood celebrity would you rather be,” quizzed my Christian devotional for girls, “Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, or Sandra Bullock?” In other words, it was perfectly fine to look to sexy starlets as my role models for successful womanhood.
My youth group Bible study leader often challenged me and the other girls not to become discouraged if we didn’t look like the cover of Seventeen. But she never challenged us not to read Seventeen in the first place.
Modern Christianity focused on helping me live at least somewhat morally in the midst of all the pop-culture attractions that constantly bombarded my senses. But it didn’t challenge me to shift my affections away from pop-culture attractions altogether.
Like countless young women today, I lived with one foot in the world and the other in the murky waters of Christian compromise. I lived my life only two or three steps ahead of the culture’s standards.
When it came to clothes – I dressed seductively, just not quite as slutty as the girls on the Guess jeans ads.
When it came to role models – I revered popular young singers or movie stars that said they were Christians (what did it matter if you really couldn’t tell by their lives?)
When it came to magazines – I read the style and beauty articles and (usually) skipped the ones that justified premarital sex.
When it came to pastimes – I watched the same movies and listened to the same music as everyone else, and tried to overlook all the profanity and perversion.
When it came to guys – I flirted and cavorted like everyone else but made sure it was mostly with guys who claimed to be Christians and went to youth group.
When it came to relationships – I gave myself emotionally and physically to one fling after another, but saved my “technical” virginity until marriage.
I was a “Christian” young woman. But I was not a set-apart young woman.
This is the state of countless Christian young women all across America. We are entrenched in the attractions of pop-culture, trying to fit Christ in wherever it’s convenient. We are far more consumed with becoming attractive to the world than being found beautiful in the eyes of our Heavenly Bridegroom. And we are reaping the consequences of our compromise in unhappy, unfulfilled, insecure, broken lives.
Something has to change.
God’s sacred intent for us goes far beyond just saving sex until marriage, wearing one-piece swimsuits instead of skimpy string bikinis, or idolizing Christian bands instead of secular ones. It is not just making sure we tack on some Christian morality to our self-indulgent lives.
His sacred intent for you and for me is nothing short of absolute abandonment to Jesus Christ, entire separation from the pollution of the world, and ardent worship of our King with every breath we take.
Take some time to ask yourself a few tough questions, and answer as honestly as possible. Does your life reflect the stunning beauty of Christ, or merely a hollow beauty or goodness of your own making? Are you a set-apart young woman, wholly and completely caught up in Him, or are you a self-focused young woman, wholly and completely caught up in your own whims and desires?
No matter where you have been or where you are at, Christ is ready to transform you with His stunning beauty. It won’t be an instant, overnight transformation. But there is no better time to take the first step. Steal away alone with Christ, and lay your life before Him. Allow Him to gently reveal to you the selfish patterns of your life, and ask Him to forgive you and re-make you in each of those areas.
You may feel far away from a life fully set-apart for Jesus Christ. But all that He asks is that you lay your life before Him so that He might begin His supernatural, incredible, life-altering work within you. He is ready to re-make you with His beauty, the kind of beauty that will last for all eternity and garner the applause of Heaven. Are you ready to lay down the approval of pop-culture for the royal beauty of Heaven? It’s an exchange you will never regret.
Want to learn more about living a life that is set apart?
Check out Set Apart Femininity.
More for youth
Leslie Ludy is the author of Set Apart Femininity: God's Sacred Intent for Every Young Woman. To learn more, visit her Web site, www.setapartgirl.com.
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