How do you define beauty? Are you beautiful? How do you see yourself and those around you?
The multi-billion dollar fashion industry defines beauty in terms of a woman’s external appearance, and by their standards, most of us don’t cut it. A perfect woman, a beautiful woman, has a small waist and large breasts. She has flawless, tan skin, smooth shiny hair, and dazzlingly white teeth. She has thick dark eye lashes, captivating eyes, and full lips. She is tall and wears stylish clothes, and does not look a day over thirty.
We know the models on the magazine covers are not real women at all but simply digitally manipulated images because the real women are not beautiful enough to grace the cover of a magazine. Yet still, we try to be like them. We try to attain a perfection that is not possible without years of plastic surgery. It seems, then, that for the majority of us, beauty is unattainable. And even if perfect beauty could be attained, it would inevitably fade over time with old age. But this doesn’t stop us from starving ourselves and plastering on layers of makeup! If we can never be as beautiful as those digitally enhanced magazine-cover models, then we will at least get as close to perfection as we can!
But what if we changed our definition of beauty and stopped looking to society to validate us? What if beauty is more than skin deep and can be found by anyone and not just women who can pull off skinny jeans and bikinis at the beach?
One of my favorite stories growing up was “You Are Special” because Max Lucado does a beautiful job showing where our self-worth should come from. In the story, there is a small town of Wemmicks (wooden people) who spend every single day putting stickers on each other. They put golden stars on Wemmicks who are beautiful and have smooth wood, or who are exceptionally talented, but they put dull gray dots on Wemmicks who are ugly and have chipped paint, or who are clumsy and awkward.
One particular Wemmick named Punchinello was so covered in dots that he no longer wanted to go outside for fear that people would put more dots on him. But one day he met a Wemmick who had no stars or dots on her because the stars and dots simply would not stick, and when he asked her what her secret was, she said that every day she went up to Eli’s workshop at the top of the hill. Eli was the wood carver who had created all the Wemmicks. Punchinello went up to the workshop, full of self-loathing and insecurity, but when he met Eli, Eli told him, “Remember, you are special because I made you. And I don’t make mistakes.” Upon leaving, Punchinello paused at the door, wondering if Eli could possibly mean that, and in that moment a dot fell to the floor as he began putting his self-worth in what Eli thought of him rather than what other people thought.
I love this story because I think that this is how God sees us. He created us in his own image, and when he looks at each of us, he sees someone that he made and someone that he loved enough to send his own son to die on a cross so that we would get to spend eternity with him. When God looks at each of us, he sees someone “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). When God knit you together in your mother’s womb, he created you exactly as he wants you to be, and God doesn’t make mistakes. You are incredibly valuable and special to him. This is what makes you beautiful. If only we could see through his eyes for a moment! Idolizing plastic dolls and digital images would seem so ridiculous!
God’s definition of beauty is vastly different than the fashion industry’s in that God does not judge by external appearances but instead looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Galatians 2:6). “Your beauty… 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” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
Redefining beauty doesn’t happen overnight, but I believe the more time we spend with Eli in his workshop, the less it will matter what other people think or say about us, and maybe one day we will wake up to find that we too are without stars and dots because we have put our self-worth in the Creator of the universe. Really, who else’s approval do we need?