What was supposed to be a routine dental visit turned out to be a $5,000 lesson in letting go.
Letting go of control over the things I cannot change and anxiety over the unknown.
Letting go of misplaced priorities, pride, and vanity.
Letting go of what should or could be simply for what is.
After two unsuccessful root canals, the next steps were clear.
“I’m sorry, Jennifer. We’re going to have to pull your front tooth.”
I whispered back, “It’s okay, it’s just a tooth. Got to keep things in perspective.”
And while I knew this was all true, tears were still rolling down my cheeks.
Chasing Ideal Beauty
On the day of the tooth extraction, the oral surgeon asked me if I was having any anxiety about the procedure. Considering I’d had dreams about him pulling the wrong tooth, showing up to church toothless, and my temporary tooth falling out at the dinner table, I’d say the answer was yes.
I literally lost sleep over a tooth.
What if people could tell? What if it didn’t match my other teeth? What if it didn’t look good?
Meanwhile, my 5 year-old was up at night because all her healthy, perfectly aligned baby teeth were still firmly intact and she desperately wanted to lose her front tooth. Go figure!
My mom came over to watch my kids while I had the procedure done and asked me how long I would be toothless before I got the dental implant.
Toothless?! I laughed out loud. I explained I’d be wearing a temporary tooth while the area healed before I got the implant.
Her response: “Really? You can’t just go without a tooth for a few weeks? You’re not that superficial, are you?”
I was dumbfounded. She did know we were talking about my front tooth, right? And that it would be months, not weeks?
But the question still lingered in my head and prompted me to do some serious self-reflection…
There have been times I’ve put false hope in skin creams, diet plans, and workout programs that promised to reverse the signs of aging and help me achieve a “masterpiece physique.”
There have been periods where I’ve obsessed over numbers on a scale and counted every calorie in attempt to lose the baby weight, look good in a bathing suit, or reach my ideal weight.
There was even a time I accepted the contact information of a cosmetic surgeon from a well-meaning family member who told me I could get rid of my wrinkles with Botox in a single 30-minute session.
We are constantly bombarded with images of seemingly perfect women with better skin, brighter teeth, flatter abs, and a fitter body. As a Health and Fitness Coach, it’s impossible for me not to notice them. Especially when one of my fellow coaches was among the top six finalists in the 2017 Miss America pageant. Literally a beauty queen.
All of us are surrounded by temptation to chase society’s definition of “ideal beauty.” From local spas hosting Botox parties to cosmetic procedures that can be done on your lunch break, the push to modify our appearance and conform to what our culture deems beautiful is more acceptable, more affordable, and more powerful than ever before.
The problem is, the more we give into that temptation, compare, and covet what others have, the further we move from God’s definition of beauty.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it 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
Our pursuit of unfading beauty begins when we start to value what God prioritizes over what our culture prioritizes.
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b
It beings when we shift our focus from what we don’t have to the blessings right in front of us and from our outward appearance to our inner self.
It begins when we stop allowing someone or something other than God Himself determine our sense of belonging and self-worth.
His Word is the only one that matters. And He says we are chosen (Deut 14:2), valued (Luke 12:6-7), accepted (Romans 15:7), and eternally loved (Jeremiah 31:3).
An Opportunity for Self-Reflection
I never did contact the cosmetic surgeon. I couldn’t make the call. To be honest, I felt convicted.
We want to maintain a youthful appearance and feel confident in our own skin, but to what end? Where do we draw the line?
For me, injecting a poisonous toxin into my forehead to paralyze the muscles and being repeatedly stabbed by a needle every 6 months to maintain those results crossed that line.
As Christian women, we must carefully consider what is deserving of our time, energy, and resources. We must perform a thorough self-examination of the motives behind our actions to ensure they are aligned with our core beliefs and values.
“Examine yourselves to see whether you are still in the Christian faith. Test yourselves! Don’t you recognize that you are people in whom Jesus Christ lives? Could it be that you’re failing the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5
What are we prioritizing? Do our thoughts reflect that? Our finances? Our social media accounts? Are our priorities evident in our day to day activities? Are we passing “the test“?
If we are thinking about perfecting our personal appearance more than we are thinking about perfecting our character, there’s something wrong.
If we prioritize our relationship with the image in the bathroom mirror or the scale above our relationship with God, our priorities are out of whack.
If we can drop $200 on a skincare regimen, diet plan, or workout program but wouldn’t put that same $200 in the collection bin at church, we are not allocating our resources wisely.
If we can spend an hour at the gym while our Bible is collecting dust on the shelf, we’ve made ourselves our own idol.
The Bible warns us against anything that dominates our mindset or actions so much so that it takes away from our focus on God. When our thoughts are dominated by what we eat, what we look like, or how much we weigh we have allowed those thoughts to “master us” – in essence, we have become slaves to them. 1 Corinthians 6:12 reminds us that while we have the right to do anything, not everything is beneficial. It also cautions us that we must not be mastered by anything. God should always come first.
Christ came to set us free and this includes freedom from obsession over our health and physical appearance, as well as freedom from condemnation that occurs when we compare ourselves to others. Comparison either breeds envy or pride, neither of which is of great worth in God’s sight. What is of great worth in God’s sight is the unfading beauty of a gentle and peaceful spirit.
A Prayer for Unfading Beauty
In an effort to fully experience Christ’s freedom, I’ve written a prayer for “unfading beauty” – beauty that does not come from “outward adornment,” but from our inner self.
Beauty that is defined by a gentle and peaceful spirit.
Beauty that is demonstrated by the outward expression of compassion, kindness, humility, and love for others and the Lord.
Beauty that outlasts sagging skin, stretch marks, and gray hair.
Beauty that gets better with age…
Please help me to…
Prioritize clothing myself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col 3:12) over clothing myself in the latest fashions.
Prioritize spiritual training over physical training, for while physical training has some value, godliness has value for all things, both in the present life and the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
Prioritize the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in Your sight (1 Pet 3:4), over physical beauty, which fades over time.
Prioritize doing everything for Your glory over living for “likes” and the accolades of others.
When I look at myself in the mirror, help me to see myself as You see me…
Embracing every wrinkle and laugh line for the story behind it…even the ones that are immune to the “age-defying” skin creams.
Embracing every scar as a badge of honor for another baby birthed, lesson learned, or obstacle overcome…especially the ones I find myself trying to cover up.
Embracing every crack of my broken self for its ability to let Your light and Your love in…even the gaping holes that I cover with prayer and trust will be healed by Your grace in Your timing.
Embracing my own uniqueness and relying on You for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change and the courage to change the things I can.
Each day, I pray that you would help me keep my priorities in check and value what You value…
Before I pick up a weight, help me to pick up Your Word.
Before I tune into my favorite workout playlist, help me tune into Your presence.
Before I put on my workout clothes help me put on Your armor – the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of readiness, Gospel of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:10-17) – remembering that Your love defends me, protects me, and fulfills me in a way that nothing and no one else can.
Help me to…
Care for and honor the body you’ve given me through regular exercise and life-giving foods, while also exercising goodness, faithfulness, patience, kindness, love, joy, peace, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) so that I can become physically and spiritually fit.
Hold tight to Your eternal promises instead of the fleeting promises of a program, procedure, or product.
Take my eating, my exercising, and my normal everyday activities and place them before you as an offering (Romans 12:1), viewing them as opportunities to glorify and worship You.
Age gracefully, clothe myself with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25), and keep You at the center of all I do.
Help me to boldly step forward and share this message with a loved one.
To take a moment to encourage her and to share what makes her uniquely beautiful.
To support one another in our pursuit of “unfading beauty.”
In Jesus’ Name,
* For a printable copy of this prayer, click here.
CALL TO ACTION:
Share this message with someone special in your life. (You can use the social media icons below to send it as an email or private FB message.) Include a note of encouragement and share what makes her uniquely beautiful. Let us build one another up, share the love of Christ, and support each other in our pursuit of unfading beauty.
* If you found this post encouraging, please subscribe to my blog to receive notifications of new posts by email. If you are looking for support and accountability to live a healthier, more God-focused life, I also invite you to join my FREE Fueled Fit Focused Facebook Community and check out my Health Coaching Facebook Page to receive daily encouragement and resources.