One morning when I was pregnant with my son, I woke up tired, sick, and cranky. To be honest, most mornings, when I was pregnant with my son, I woke up this way. This particular morning however, I decided to take a little extra time on my eye shadow. I got to work and one of my students told me I looked “fierce.” Suddenly, a new enthusiasm for taking my time on my makeup was born.
As I watched YouTube videos, bought new products, and practiced my skills, I quickly realized that, among my sisters in Christ, a zest for makeup might be ridiculed as insecurity or vanity. Real women of God don’t need concealer to leave the house feeling their best; their confidence is rooted in Christ alone and not in beauty hacks.
Woman in the Mirror
What I was going through is something that so many women experience on a day-to-day basis. Whether we’re pregnant, wrestling with our weight, warring against acne, or just watching ourselves age, we all know what it’s like to see our faces in the mirror and wish we could change something. To struggle with our physical appearance is fundamentally human. It’s also a fundamental result of the fall.
Once upon a time, Eve was perfect, and then she decided to eat the forbidden fruit. She and Adam had been perfectly made in the image of God, but as death entered the world, so did the aging process and the imperfections that we deal with every day. As women, our outward appearances often have a huge impact on how we’re perceived in our society — and on how we perceive ourselves.
This impact isn’t a new phenomenon. Plenty of women in the Bible were noted for the way they looked. Rachel (Genesis 29:17), Esther (Esther 2:7), Abigail (1 Samuel 25:3), and others are noted for their beauty, whereas Leah’s looks weren’t quite as prized (Genesis 29:17).
This Woman’s Worth
Obviously, though, looks aren’t of principle importance. There are many virtuous women in God’s word whose looks aren’t given mention at all. Ruth and Rahab are both female Gentiles mentioned in the lineage of Christ, and the former’s loyalty and the latter’s faith bore mention in the Scriptures where their features did not. The Proverbs 31 woman’s fear of the Lord was to be praised over charm or beauty (Proverbs 31:30). The wife who Jacob prized as the most beautiful didn’t end up bearing the son who would lead to Christ; the plainer girl did (Genesis 29:35).
Do not let your adorning be external — the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear — but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3–4)
This attitude runs counter to that of the culture we live in, as well as to an infamous woman in Scripture who adorned her head and painted her eyes to enhance her natural beauty: Jezebel (2 Kings 9:30).
To Jezebel or Not to Jezebel
However, before we throw out all of our gold jewelry, stop wantonly braiding our hair, and trade our clothes for potato sacks, it’s important to look at how Christ adorns his bride:
I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk. And I adorned you with ornaments and put bracelets on your wrists and a chain on your neck. And I put a ring on your nose and earrings in your ears and a beautiful crown on your head. (Ezekiel 16:10–12)
As we continue to read this passage, we realize that the problem isn’t in the lavish gifts that Christ bestows upon Israel, but Israel’s vain trust in those gifts instead of in her Savior (Ezekiel 16:15). If adornment was the problem, Christ would not have lavished fine clothing upon her; rather, the problem is when our worship shifts from the Giver of beautiful gifts to ourselves.
Beauty Beyond the Blush
While I was pregnant, putting on makeup became a way to remind myself that I wasn’t just a waddling mom, that I was still a woman. It was a tangible way for me to begin my day looking my very best, accentuating the features the Lord had given me, and trying to downplay effects of the fall — like fatigue.
As an added bonus, my husband often noticed and commented on my efforts, similar to the way Solomon complimented the beauty of his bride-to-be (Song 1:10). In its proper place, makeup can be a beautiful and faith-filled form of self-expression, and a distinctly feminine pastime akin to wearing our best clothes and jewelry.
But makeup’s proper place is as a hobby, not a necessity. God’s word makes it clear that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Whether we were blessed with perfectly symmetrical faces and bodies that just won’t quit, or acne scars and postpartum lumpiness, we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) and are therefore precious in his sight. Further, God’s concern for us reaches past our outward appearance and into our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). And if we are his children, those hearts are being transformed by and conformed to Christ (Romans 12:1–2).
This is where our confidence should lie: not in our outward adornment or lack thereof; not in the perfectly beat face — but in the person and work of Jesus. Whether you adorn yourself with a beautiful braid, a brand new dress, a sweet new pair of earrings, or the newest Sephora release, ultimately, the most important beauty begins within.
This article originally appeared at Desiring God.