One of the biggest problems for most women is comparison with other women. We constantly see airbrushed models plastered on billboards declaring themselves to be the definition of perfection. Even live, non-airbrushed celebrities embody this idea of the ideal woman: thin, flawless-skinned, long-legged, white-teethed elegance. Where are the ‘unattractive’ women? Hidden away from the limelight for fear that if we discovered that it’s OK to look ‘normal’ then we’d stop investing in the beauty industry! The pressure is inescapable!
But what happens when we turn to Christian role models instead, and even they are stunningly beautiful and effortlessly graceful?
Searching for encouragement over authentic femininity more often than not means you’re presented with images of beautiful girls with contagious smiles and tender features wearing long, lace dresses and flowers in their hair. Again, there’s a pressure to live up to their standards – only this time it’s even harder because they look that lovely without the help of make-up!
I’m a fan of a good worship band, but among the ‘big names’ I don’t think I’ve ever seen a woman who wasn’t attractive (I know, I know - the joy within her makes her attractive, but there's also an undeniable physical theme here!). Christian media that advertises the fact that ‘God loves everybody’ rarely shows overweight women or acne-prone teenagers. Even in the places we turn to for a reality check and sense of security, we’re too often met by stereotypical ideals.
Where does our security come from then?
Recently I came across this Bible verse:
(You) ‘shall be my peculiar treasure’ (Exodus 19:5).
This is the KJV translation, and as I don’t own a KJV Bible I’d never seen it written this way before. Usually this verse mentions something along the lines of being a ‘treasured possession’, but this time the word peculiar really stood out to me!
If I asked you why you loved your best friend, chances are you wouldn’t tell me about her hair colour or perfect figure, you’d tell me about all her quirky habits which other people might find weird but you’ve grown to know and love over years of friendship.
The same is true of God: He doesn’t love us because we fit a mould, He loves us because He created us to break that mould. He sees your individual characteristics, and He smiles to himself at the memory of choosing the little things that would make you into the person you are.
I’ve never felt like I fit the stereotype of femininity. I’m wacky rather than demure, and I enjoy lifting weights far more than carrying shopping bags. My hair refuses to do what it’s told, and my skin breaks out at the most inconvenient times. For years I thought that made me less of a woman, but more recently I’ve come to realise that it simply makes me ME!
So, yes, Christian media should make more of an effort to avoid falling into the same traps as secular media. But at the end of the day we have the choice to listen to what the world tells us is beautiful, or what God tells us is beautiful. When the world bombards us with 'beautiful' women we turn to Christian role models instead, but they are still only human. For the truth we need to go directly to God.
I may be peculiar, but I’m God’s peculiar treasure.