For the third time this year, I got a pedicure. I divulge this not so you will think I have sad and neglected toes, but as a pastor’s wife, I always feel like I have to justify frivolous spending. So, there I am, sitting in my bucket seat with my feet soaking, reveling in the sheer sacredness of sitting still, when in struts a “glamazon” otherwise known as “A Real Housewife from Orange County,” a reality show on Bravo that claims to follow real women in the OC. Now there are many words I would use to describe this woman, but “real,” wasn’t one of them.
I tried not to stare, but I honestly couldn’t help myself. The woman, quite simply, commanded the room. She was striking, toned, tanned, enhanced (and I do mean enhanced), luxuriously clothed, styled, over made-up and had a slight air of arrogance. I imagine she is used to be ogled and gawked at, so it’s not surprising that she would be a tad defensive in her demeanor (and yes, that was me again trying to justify that I just called someone arrogant…bad pastor’s wife, bad!).
I confess, as I sat there in my sweaty workout clothes and ratty pony-tail with baby snot stains on my arm, I felt a tad underdressed for the occasion of nail grooming. The “Real” beauty, on the other hand was camera ready, ensconced in a black silk jumpsuit, roped in at the waist with a big chunky belt, delicately flowing down to skim the top of her sky-high heels that she peeled off and placed in the soaking water.
Her earrings were the size of my fist and I was mesmerized, like a deer in the headlights at the surreal glamour of her very presence. Her make-up alone looked like it took hours to apply and it wasn’t even noon yet. It was TV “reality” juxtaposed into my reality, strangely an oxymoron, because in all reality, people always act differently, good or bad, when the camera is rolling.
Strange emotions erupted in my belly as I sat in my chair feeling very small. As a former model, my pride and competitive spirit kicked into high gear. Apparently, the Holy Spirit was quenched for a few minutes as my devious sin nature took over. The demon sitting on my shoulder whispered, “Now, if you only had those clothes, a makeup artist, a mystic tan and that purse, you could give that chick a run for her money. You could make people stare.”
Surprise, surprise…vain people really do think like this, though I might testify on the stand that I was under the influence of nail polish remover. But the truth is, that even after 17 years of following Christ, with all the spiritual leaps and set-backs of a long and arduous journey, I still struggle with image management, even though I know the truth that sets me free.
I know that what looks like success to the world — beauty, power, wealth, and status — is death to the soul. Before I accepted Christ in my early 20s, it almost destroyed me, as I struggled with an eating disorder and a compulsive addiction to control my appearance.
Recently, I stole my husband’s copy of Why Guys Need God by Mike Erre. And though I’ve always known that our society has done a disservice to our young women by portraying these images of perfection, I never really understood “the why”, beyond the inherent sinful nature of man. But Erre shed light on this perversion of beauty by tying our culture’s destructive behavior back to Genesis 1 and the curse on humanity.
Erre describes this consumptive and objective mentality towards women as a very assault on the heart of femininity. As cursed men run from human weakness and overcompensate by trying to control things (women included), it has distorted the relationships between men and women. If a woman is objectified, and her worth and honor stripped, then a man has control over her and subsequently, a world of detached men and women hungry for connection is born. Generations of women, starved for attention by the distant men in their lives have created a culture of constant striving to somehow attain the elusive power to heal the gap of loneliness, not recognizing that the striving only leads to an endless cycle of more detachment.
Erre suggests that because “real” women can never measure up to images of the world, they either give up or continually compete for the illusive ideal, starving and distorting their bodies (through surgery or other “treatments”) to create an image subject to the whims of fashion and man’s desire.
As a young woman, I fell into the striving category. Now, I guess you could call me a recovering “striver.”
And so as I sat in the salon, and stewed in thoughts of negativity, the Spirit inside me burst forth, and I turned a proverbial spiritual corner. Closing my eyes, I took a long breath and prayed for Jesus to comfort me. I clung to His truth that illuminates the insidious evil of seduction and the temptation to compare and envy, forcing myself to remember that my appearance does not define my worth and that I am beautiful in the light of Christ’s sacrifice, never subject to the world’s obsession with youth and flawless perfection.
I relaxed into my seat and smiled at the girl tending to my toes. Fortunately, she had no idea of the spiritual battle I had just waged in my head, and then I turned and smiled at the not so “real” woman next to me. Empathy and understanding crashed over my heart like thundering waves as I realized that my battle was her battle, and that the great deceiver was whispering in her ear too.