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About the Author
ERIN DAVIS is the founder of Graffiti Ministries, an organization dedicated to addressing the issues of identity, worth, and true beauty in the lives of young women. A popular speaker, author and blogger, Erin has addressed women of all ages nationwide and is passionately committed to sharing God's Truth with others. She is the author of several books including Graffiti: Learning to See the Art in Ourselves, True Princess:Embracing Humility in an All About Me World, The Bare Facts with Josh McDowell and the Lies Young Women Believe Companion Guide with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh. Erin and her husband, Jason work with youth and families at their church in Southwest Missouri. They are the parents of two adorable boys, Eli and Noble.
Read an Excerpt
Learning to See the Art in Ourselves
By Erin Davis
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2008 Erin Davis
All rights reserved.
WHAT I SEE IN THE MIRROR: INSIGHT INTO THE HEART OF MY STRUGGLE
I kneeled on the floor of my tiny bathroom gasping for control. For the third time in a week, the urge to take drastic measures consumed me after my scale screamed numbers that made me cringe.
Intense conversations with my Savior had helped me avoid purging twice before, but this time the battle was too fierce, and I surrendered to my temptation as tears of frustration streamed down my face.
"How did I get to this place?" I whispered. "I thought I was past this."
That day in the bathroom and many other days like it stand out as monumental moments in my struggle to embrace my beauty. I whimpered those words early in 2003, a year when everything seemed to be going right. I was a new bride who had recently married the man of my dreams. We were gladly serving as youth pastors on staff at a welcoming church in a charming town. My career was taking off. I had many friends. I seemed to be in control. What could be wrong?
I knew the answer: me. I was wrong. Every time I looked in the mirror I knew that I was flawed, and my reflection confirmed that I was ugly, fat, and shameful.
On that day when I knelt on the floor after attempting to regain control of my beauty by doing whatever it took to control my weight, I heard lies being whispered that I had believed a thousand times before. Even though it had been nearly two years since I had acted out my eating disorder, I hadn't gone a single day since without thinking I had no value or worth or beauty to offer.
For as long as I can remember, the temptation to turn my eyes from the prize and toward my thighs—thighs that are too big and abs that aren't flat enough—has been a thorn in my flesh. At times it seems that I am being hunted, literally chased by an enemy who knows that an obsession with my physical body naturally leads to an unraveling of my focus on all that God has for me.
I have had many, many moments of struggle in the area of beauty. These moments are my most intimate secrets, the deepest places of my heart. It would be easier not to admit these weaknesses to you. I would prefer for you to think that I have it all together. But I feel compelled to give you a glimpse into the heart of my struggle.
Why? Because I know you struggle too. I am sure of it. I am not the only girl to feel this way. I have learned this lesson as part of my healing. As the Lord began to call me out of the pit of self-doubt, He asked me to share my heart with others. I began, reluctantly at first, I admit, to travel the country to talk with girls just like you. I have heard you comment about your thighs and bellies. I see you watch each other and compare every curve. I have stood by and watched as the Enemy has whispered the same lies into your life that he spent years whispering into mine. "You are fat," he says. "You are ugly." "Other girls are more beautiful than you." "There is something wrong with you." "You don't have value."
And so we wonder: Are we flawed, are we a mistake ... could we be beautiful?
The answers to these questions are the keys to our freedom. But we must seek them out. God's Word is rich with words of affirmation of our beauty and worth, but we must seek His truth in order to counteract the lies that are so tightly wrapped around our hearts. Maybe these lies have never led you to take the actions I have taken to be beautiful. But this is not a book about actions; it is an exploration of your heart. If you've ever doubted your beauty and worth, you have heard a lie. Freedom from the lie—for you and for me—is important, and yes, you can find it!
We fight side by side in a battle with a slippery snake. I know from experience that this is a battle not easily won. But I also know that victory comes when you turn your eyes upon Jesus.
You are not the only one who has heard or seen the lie. You are not the only one who doesn't like what she sees in the mirror. You certainly aren't the only one to question your own beauty.
I want you to know that there is a mirror that does not mock. There is a place where we can look and be told that we are beautiful, lovely, treasured. That mirror is Christ, and believe it or not, He has dedicated much of His Word to exploring your beauty and affirming your worth.
What about You?
It is my deep desire for this book to become a conversation—both a conversation between you and me as we both examine our beauty under the microscope of God's Word, and also a conversation between you and Christ, the author of your beauty. But conversations require two-way communication. So at the end of each chapter, there is space for you to write about your own experiences and reactions. It might take some effort. For many of us, these issues of ourselves and our beauty are so deeply ingrained that it is difficult to sift through them and see what exactly our feelings are and where they have come from. You'll see questions to guide you, but feel free to write about what's on your heart. I am praying for the Holy Spirit to minister mightily to you through these pages.
Start by writing a letter to God. Tell Him where you are in your struggle to embrace your own beauty. Ask Him to begin to help you identify lies that you have believed in this area of your life, and be open to His truth in these areas. Tell Him that you are ready to have a conversation about your beauty, and invite Him to guide the direction of the communication. I promise you that the words of love He has to offer will surprise you and affirm you in ways you never thought possible.
So will you come along with me on a journey? Will you join me as we examine together what Christ has to say about your beauty? Do you have the courage to look deep into your own heart as I continue to reveal the deepest parts of mine? Let's take the journey together. I am praying that you will walk away with a renewed sense of worth and the ability to see that your beauty is God-given and that you truly are His masterpiece.CHAPTER 2
THE HISTORY OF BEAUTY: WHO CAN KEEP UP?
Let's imagine that you are getting ready for a dance. All of your friends are going to be there. Your date is really cute and he will be arriving to pick you up in a horse-drawn carriage in just a few hours (very Prince Charming-like!). Your dress is gorgeous—you feel like a princess in it! You have been waiting for this night for weeks.
You've spent hours before your date arrives getting ready. You've already had a long bath in donkey's milk to make your skin soft and fresh. You've plucked your eyebrows into a fashionable narrow arch. You've picked out the perfect curly red wig to match your bright red lips and cheeks. You know that every other beautiful girl there will have skin the color of alabaster, so you apply your own white foundation, a concoction made of white lead and vinegar. Since transparent skin is all the rage, you paint on false veins and you brighten your eyes with drops made from belladonna plants. It's true that this plant is toxic, but hey, it's necessary to give your eyes sparkle.
Does this sound like a fashion nightmare? Is it hard to imagine finding pale, almost sickly, skin more attractive than the healthy look we sun worshipers go for?
Can you imagine putting toxins in your eyes to make them sparkle, or painting on veins to make your skin appear transparent? Sounds crazy!
But if you were a young lady living in the days of Queen Elizabeth I, these would be normal beauty standards. Instead of pining for the thin bodies, tan skin, and gorgeous long hair of today's popular culture icons, you would have spent your time wishing that you could achieve the look of Queen Elizabeth herself. She was known throughout the land as the ultimate standard of beauty. She boasted very pale skin, wore a red wig, her lips were the brightest red, and she had an extremely high hairline that she achieved by—are you ready?—plucking. Ouch!
Queen Elizabeth wasn't the only woman whose standard of beauty seems farfetched to us. Cleopatra's lipsticks were made from finely crushed beetles mixed with ant eggs. Several Egyptian queens wore false beards to important ceremonies. Closer to our time, during the Second World War, women tanned their legs with browning gravy or strong tea because, due to rationing, no silk stockings were available. A study of the history of beauty reads more to us like a Fear Factor cookbook than a fashion magazine! One culture's idea of a beautiful woman is another era's candidate for a makeover. But no matter in what age we live, we as women have struggled with or been determined to fit into the beauty mold of the time.
In fact, women have always gone to great lengths to feel beautiful. We have worked hard to measure up for centuries.
That alabaster skin I mentioned earlier was considered an essential item for the fashionable woman four hundred years ago, but it also caused a variety of skin problems. Some beauty writers at the time discouraged this practice, pointing out that it made skin appear grey and shriveled. Even worse, the foundation was responsible for numerous physical problems and even resulted in some cases of muscle paralysis and untimely death.
During the Renaissance, wealthy Italian women wore a popular face powder made of arsenic. They were encouraged to apply the powder when their husbands were around. In a gruesome twist to this odd trend, the creator of the powder was later executed after as many as six hundred husbands died from exposure to the poison.
In ancient China, small feet were considered beautiful. So, from age six on, young Chinese girls' feet were bound to keep them from growing. A perfectly bound foot would only be about three inches long. That standard of beauty kept women from walking, running, and dancing.
Have you ever heard of the Padung tribe of Burma? I bet you've heard of their beauty standards. They are famous for considering long necks beautiful and for taking extreme measures to achieve that look. They use neck rings to stretch the necks of the women of their tribe to as long as fifteen inches, causing major deformities.
These beauty standards sound bizarre. It is hard to imagine that women have worked hard for white skin, tiny, useless feet, and giraffe-like necks, or that men have found those traits endearing. Even stranger when you think about it is the fact that women throughout history have felt insecure or questioned their own worth because they couldn't achieve the standard of beauty that was currently in vogue ... painted-on veins? Giraffe neck? Arsenic-laced powder?
But are we any different today? Our society, like every society throughout the ages, is obsessed with beauty and has invented a slew of new ways to obtain beauty at any cost. From plastic surgery to Botox to obsession resulting in eating disorders, it's not hard to imagine what the history books will tell about the great lengths we are willing to go to so we can meet the current beauty ideal.
Weighing In ... It's All Relative
For most of us, beauty isn't about hair, makeup, and fashion nearly as much as it is about our bodies. If you are like me, the words beautiful and thin are synonyms. How many times have you told yourself, "If I could just lose ten pounds, then I would be beautiful," or "If I were as thin as she is, then I would be beautiful"?
For many of us, and for women throughout the ages, our struggle to achieve the weight standards of our society causes untold grief and frustration.
It is certainly true that in our culture weight is a key beauty issue. The ultra-thin ideals of beauty that we see in magazines, movies, and television are the models of beauty that we feel pressured to become. Here's proof:
According to a recent study, over half of the females between the ages of 18 and 25 would prefer to be run over by a truck than to be fat. Two thirds of women in that age group would choose to be mean or stupid rather than fat.
The number one wish for females 11 to 17 is to lose weight.
According to one study, 20 percent of underweight adolescent girls actively diet. 91 percent of women recently surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight through dieting; 22 percent dieted "often" or "always."
40 percent of newly identified cases of anorexia are in girls 15 to 19.
There has been a rise in incidence of anorexia in 15- to 19-year-olds every year since 1930.
My weight has been a core issue in my life since junior high. My thoughts are constantly ruled by wishes to be thin and by frustration over my lack of willpower to get that way. As much as I don't like to admit it, I find myself thinking about my weight more than I think about my family, my friends, or my Savior.
I wonder if the same is true for you. Do you fit into these statistics somewhere? Maybe you are unhappy with your body. Maybe you are among the 91 percent of us who have dieted or the 22 percent of us who are almost always dieting.
Or maybe you are among the growing number of girls who are so consumed by today's beauty standards that eating has become a luxury that you can't afford.
I understand! I can identify with nearly every negative body image statistic ever written. And we have plenty of company with women throughout history. As we've seen, a society's perception of the ideal female body type can change as quickly as the hemline, but the struggle to measure up is always with us.
In the 1890s, curves were in (too bad I didn't live then!). So women who were naturally thin put on false thighs and hips to make themselves appear fuller. Can you imagine padding your hips and thighs to feel more beautiful?
By the 1920s curves were out and boyish figures were in. Women worked for super-thin bodies. In contrast to our society today, shapely chests and backsides were considered unattractive.
Then the pendulum swung back in the 1950s when Marilyn Monroe's size-14 body was considered ideal. And two decades later, women longed for the model Twiggy's 5?-7? 91-pound body.
Here's the scoop: Every society has an ideal in weight that's considered attractive, and most of us will never achieve the ideal. So how do we deal with this reality?
Cultivating Lasting Beauty
In light of the evidence that what society considers beautiful is constantly changing—what's a girl to do? How about if we spend our time working on beauty that lasts? God's Word offers us some clues for how to obtain beauty that transcends the constantly changing trends of the world.
Peter writes, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, 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).
Does Peter have a problem with braids? Does he dislike gold jewelry? Is he saying that we can't wear cute clothes? No, that's not it. But he does seem to realize what a glance at the history of beauty easily reveals ... any beauty obtained by something we can put on or take off our bodies is sure to fade. Sometimes braided hair is in style; sometimes it's not. Sometimes gold is the ultimate accent color. Sometimes it is "so last season." Sometimes a must-have outfit makes it to the bargain bin before I have the chance to buy it. Peter points out that something so temporary cannot be the source of true beauty.
But there is a source of true beauty.
Look again. Peter does mention a type of beauty that is unfading, one that lasts. Beauty that is not subject to whatever is considered hot at the moment—or who. He points out that lasting beauty comes from within, from a gentle and quiet spirit. And then he says the most amazing thing! He reminds us that not only does inner beauty last, but it is of great worth to God. Can you imagine anything more wonderful than developing a kind of beauty that the God of the universe treasures?
Paul offers valuable instruction in Philippians. Instead of focusing on the standards of this world, Paul encourages us to turn our attention toward things more eternal.
In Philippians 4:8 he writes, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praise-worthy—think about such things."
I wonder if the beauty standards of this world could be considered true or noble. I wonder if something as flighty as the current ideal of the perfect weight could be considered pure or admirable. I wonder if the people we see in fashion magazines would be lovely without all of the wonders of makeup, lighting, and Photoshop.
Excerpted from Graffiti by Erin Davis. Copyright © 2008 Erin Davis. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Erin Answers: Why Graffiti? /8
-1. What I See in the Mirror:
Insight into the Heart of My Struggle /10
-2. The History of Beauty:
Who Can Keep Up? /16
-3. Walking on Broken Glass:
Why What You Think Affects How You Live /26
-4. Laying the Foundation:
Three Truths about the Body /40
-5. Where Do These Feelings Come From?
How Do We Develop a Sense of Worth? /52
-6. Mixed Messages:
Sifting Through the Glossy Print /64
Join the Crowd: Born to be Flawed /78
-8. But Why Can't I Look Like She Does?
Strategies for Winning the Comparison Game /90
-9. The Trouble with Body Image:
Altered Perspectives and Fun House Mirrors /100
-10. Disordered Eating:
Finding Balance /112
-11. Taking Aim at Your Enemy:
Exploring the Spiritual Side of Our Physical Struggle /124
-12. God's View of Beauty:
Finding Hope in the Word /138
The King Is Enthralled by Your Beauty /150
-Epilogue: Glancing in the Rearview Mirror /162
What People are Saying About This
Erin has an uncommon grasp on what goes on in our minds as girls. She knows that the messages this world sends us about beauty create a battlefield in our minds. Consider this book standard issue armor! You need it to survive.-Dannah Gresh, bestselling youth author