Saturday, October 3, 2015

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

"Which one do you like best Mama?" she asked about the young women in the workout video. I was on the floor doing leg lifts, trying to keep up with the 20-somethings on the screen.

"What do you mean? I don't know any of the girls in this video. I just do the exercises. I've never met them." I breathed out.

"I mean which one do you think is the prettiest?"

"It doesn't matter which one is the prettiest."

"It doesn't?"

Ugh. I felt something in my stomach even though I was working out my legs.

"No. God says that what matters is on the inside. You know, how you treat other people, what you think about and how you love God. It doesn't matter to Him if you're the prettiest or dressed the nicest."

This idea seemed foreign to her. 

After my answer, I realized that I was telling this to one of the prettiest little girls I've ever seen, bias aside. This little girl has had people stop in their tracks to compliment her eyes and tell us how stunning she is. Not a day goes by that we aren't commenting on her external beauty and I often find myself mesmerized by her smile and her eyes. Oh, her eyes.

She's a typical five-year-old girl in that she never ends the day in the same outfit that she donned in the morning. She twirls, she spins, she prances.

She's a typical female in that she not only longs to be lovely, beautiful and desired but she wants to be the most lovely, beautiful and desired. Without any intentional instruction, she has learned to compare herself to others and has created a beauty measuring stick in her mind. What steps we take next may determine if she uses that stick to measure others for the rest of her life.

It took her mama nearly 40 years to finally break that stick over her knee and pick up a new unit of measurement. As a young girl, I studied Sport's Illustrated swimsuit edition and made subconscious mental notes of what made those models beautiful. I knew all the supermodels of the era and learned their features. I stood on stages in beauty pageants and was measured by my beauty and poise. I still step out of my bedroom when going out, waiting to hear a compliment on my appearance from my husband (fortunately for me, I married a man who dishes them out liberally.)

Something clicked in me in the last few years. I'm at an age where I can see beauty fading. I realize how temporary it is and how little return is made on an investment in it. I also realize that comparing is toxic. That doesn't mean I'm immune to its poison but I'm at least trying to take it in smaller doses. As women we compare looks: hair, eyes, skin, weight, nails, lashes, lips, hips and breasts. But we don't stop there... we compare men, houses, decor, clothes, purses, jewelry, success, holiness, relationships.... I'm getting exhausted just writing this list.

So now I intend to give my daughter something else. I want to give her a new ruler. I want to compliment her thoughtfulness, her cooperative nature, her initiative, her smarts, her creativity, and her gentleness. I will have to dig deep for some of these at her age and stage but I intend to find them and magnify them. Make miles out of these attributes and make inches out of her mesmerizing eyes and charming smile (not centimeters though because we will always want to be beautiful!).

And then, with the grace of God, when I look into those eyes, something deeper will have developed inside, something that will extend beyond the temporary and limited measurements of man and extend into something eternal.

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