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Queen Esther's Secrets of WomanhoodA Biblical Rite of Passage for Your Daughter
By Ginger Garrett
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2006 Ginger Garrett
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMonth One
We honor God when we present ourselves, by faith, as beautiful.
Key Verse: [King Xerxes ordered his men] to bring him Queen Vashti resplendent in her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the guests and officials. She was extremely good-looking. (Esther 1:11)
What Is Beauty?
When our story opens, we are treated to an inside look at the feast of Xerxes. Notice that the biblical account gives great details: what the pavement looked like, what the goblets were made of, even the color of the curtains. How odd it is, then, that the most beautiful woman in the land, Queen Vashti, is given absolutely no identifying description. Esther, who will become her successor, is likewise given no description.
In fact, the Bible never gives a physical description of the women it names as beautiful. We don't know if they were short, tall, heavy-set, or thin. The most descriptive passages of a beautiful woman, in Song of Songs, describe her hair as resembling "a flock of goats" and her neck like shields standing together. It's lovely poetry as we see the woman through her lover's eyes, but it doesn't describe her exact appearance.
The Bible is not shorton other details: Consider how much space is devoted to describing lineages, the exact measurements of Noah's ark, Solomon's temple, weights and measurements of flour and oil, and so on. Those are interesting, but why would God intentionally omit details of a subject that fascinates everyone? Men are held captive by beauty, and women long for it. Why would God be so silent about what it actually is? Perhaps it is because of our tendency to worship idols instead of Him.
Think back to the Ten Commandments: We are commanded to worship only God, never an idol. While Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were making a golden calf to worship. It angered God that His people wanted to worship a visible idol instead of worshiping Him. When we try to articulate a specific standard of beauty-"beautiful is blonde and 36-24-36," for example-we come dangerously close to making an idol out of beauty and worshiping it instead of God. Beauty is a reflection of God's character and His artistic nature, but the more we focus on defining human beauty in human measurements, the more we're distracted from God.
I heard it put wisely once: It is wrong to define beauty by measurable standards, because beauty is the exclusive domain of God. God articulates what is beautiful, and we are both His canvas and His audience.
How Do I Know I'm Beautiful?
Seeing our own beauty begins when we're willing to see beauty in creation as an expression of God. When we stop judging His work by our standards, we begin to understand beauty in all its revelations:
We're beautiful because we are filled with His beauty:
Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us-you've been so good to us!
He has called us "marvelously made," an example of His "breathtaking" work:
Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God-you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! (Psalm 139:13-14)
God is clearly smitten with us: The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. (Psalm 45:11, NIV)
Our beauty isn't dependent on exterior criteria that change with designers and seasons, but on what God has done within us and continues to do as we walk with Him:
What matters is not your outer appearance-the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes-but your inner disposition.
Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
God is beauty. God fills us with a radiance that transcends the exterior criteria the world tries to force upon us. God says you're beautiful, too, and encourages you to cultivate the beauty that delights Him. We honor God when we believe Him, so call yourself beautiful, by faith.
The Sacrifice of Beauty
Every time we define beauty as a specific look, we automatically exclude another woman. The era of worshiping blonde supermodels left African-American women feeling unlovely. The era of worshiping thin "twiggies" left curvy women feeling unlovely. The era of Marilyn Monroe left lithe women feeling unlovely. Every time we define beauty by our own standards, we hurt someone else. Defining beauty as a hair color, a measurement, or a weight also contradicts the main message of the gospel: Real love is sacrifice. The sacrifice you and I must make for our daughters' generation is refusing to define beauty and trusting God to reveal it. We show our trust in God when we:
Believe what God says about beauty and our own loveliness
Care for ourselves as good stewards of our bodies and appearances
A good steward sees to it that the best of care is given to what will someday be returned to its rightful owner. Our daughters will learn about stewardship from us, so we need to demonstrate it in our own lives. We can begin by attending to the way we are eating and making sure we feed ourselves as a loving Father would. We can exercise because it's freeing and energizing, not because it's a chance to get into a smaller size. We can fix what's broken or unhealthy without feeling self-conscious. If we have damaged skin or crooked teeth, there's nothing wrong with getting help fixing them. But when we cross the line and risk our health for a worldly standard that disrespects God, we have to ask if we're truly loving ourselves, our God, and our daughters.
We risk our health in a lot of ways: over-dieting, risky supplements, surgery, extreme worry, and anxiety over appearance. So I am going to ask this generation of moms to be ready to sacrifice to love the next generation. What lengths are you willing to go to in order to honor beauty as defined only by God and not our culture? Are you willing to sacrifice so that the next generation finds freedom? It might mean no more diets. It might mean canceling a magazine subscription that idealizes one body type and one type only. It might mean accepting your body as it is and saying no to cosmetic surgery.
Remember, every time you endorse a worldly standard of beauty, you exclude and hurt another woman, perhaps even your own daughter. You'll know it's a worldly standard if you can clearly define it, measure it, and believe that achieving it will somehow help you meet your goals. ("If only I looked like that, I could ...") We'll talk more about the power of sacrifice and how love always requires a sacrifice. For now, I want to challenge you to pray about the sacrifices you may need to make to enable your daughter to experience real beauty God's way.
Letting Go of Comparisons
Diversity in appearance is a sign that God is at work all over the world. We are made in His image, but each person reveals Him in a slightly different way. We honor God when we honor each other as beautiful without comparing ourselves. Comparing ourselves to others is forbidden in the Bible because it enslaves us and leads us into sin, temptation, and depression.
"You shall not covet ... anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17, NIV)
Comparing ourselves will destroy our faith. To compare is to ask God: "Did you give her more or less than me? Which of us did You take better care of? Which of us do You love more?" If another girl has the features we feel we lack, we take it as an indictment of God's love for us. Why would He give that feature to another girl and not to us? We get angry or depressed. We doubt His goodness, and eventually, we doubt Him. In Matthew 6:8, God reminds us:
"Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need."
When we compare and worry about what we don't have, we're questioning God's ability and intention to provide:
You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity. (Philippians 4:19-20)
God provides everything you need. Beauty can't. A world without God insists that beauty will bring love, fulfillment, self-acceptance, security, and friends. Without God, the world is desperate to chase beauty in the hopes of receiving these blessings. But you can ask for the blessings and receive them. You know the Source.
You can find the courage to let go of comparison when you realize that God will bless and prosper you and "give you what your heart desires" (Psalm 20:4). Making sure you are loved and blessed is God's responsibility. When we look to physical beauty to provide those things, we insult God's power and intention.
The pressure we feel to be beautiful in the world's eyes is the same pressure our daughters feel. Even if we haven't resolved the conflicting emotions we feel about our own beauty and appearance, we have years of experience that we can offer them. You don't have to be finished growing spiritually and emotionally in order to talk with your daughter about true beauty. It's enough that you take this time to let her know she's not alone. Tonight, have some laughs at the expense of the world's myths and enjoy yourself heartily. After all, the most beautiful woman in the room is usually the one laughing.
Preparing for Your Meeting
* * *
This Month's Beauty Treat: skin-care lesson Beauty begins by getting rid of impurities and rinsing away the unhealthy residue and pollution from the world
Appointment date and time:
Where we'll eat:
* * *
1. Who were the most beautiful women to you when you were a young girl? How did you define beauty?
2. How do you define and measure beauty today? How has your understanding of beauty changed over time?
3. Since God said "beauty soon fades" (Proverbs 31:30), why do you think He made us beautiful?
4. What are the traps of pursuing beauty that you wish your daughter could avoid?
Go Back for Seconds
1. With a concordance, look up the verses in the Bible about beauty. Write down the common themes you see. How would you define beauty according to the Bible?
2. Both of you name the three most beautiful women you know. What is it that makes them beautiful-is it more than appearances?
Prepare Your Daughter for the Esther Meeting
1. We'll be getting together for our Esther Year time on this date and time:
2. This month's beauty treat will be: skin-care lesson.
3. This month's story verse is: Esther 1:11.
4. So when we're together, we're going to be talking about: beauty.
Excerpted from Queen Esther's Secrets of Womanhood by Ginger Garrett Copyright © 2006 by Ginger Garrett. Excerpted by permission.
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