Vanity, Vanity, All Is Vanity
On a muggy summer morning a few months ago, a creak and rustle disturbed my deep vacation slumber. I slit one eye open to see my teenaged daughter creeping toward my bathroom. My bleary gaze rolled to the clock: seven a.m. “What are you doing up so early?” My voice was thick and groggy. Remember this happened in the summer, and my daughter is a teenager. Normal rousing time for her would be eleven.
“Hmph.” How can she express disbelief and indignation without a single vowel? “Senior pictures, Mom.” Obviously I was on the verge of senility or had Alzheimer’s if I didn’t remember such a momentous occasion. I nodded and started to relax back into dreamland when I did remember. “Isn’t your appointment at noon?” More patronizing noises. “I have to take a shower and straighten my hair.” She knew better than to say duh, but the emotion came through in her tone.
Later in the morning, in response to my gentle mockery, she reminded me in lofty tones, “This is the picture everyone will remember me by for the rest of my life.” She had a point, but five hours?
Ah, but who am I to stand in judgment? Recently my twenty-year-old son chastised me once again on the way to church for my fuddy-duddy duds. “All right.” I said. “You’ve ridiculed me one time too many. You, Mr. Smarty-pants, are going shopping with me and helping me choose some acceptable clothes.” To my surprise, he agreed without a fuss. The resulting trip was fun and educational, and I came home with four new shirts and two new dresses—even though I have a closet full of garments that could cover me decently (and really not that unattractively) for another twenty years.
I’m sure similar scenes occur across the country daily. As a high school teacher, I find most classes start with reminders to guys and girls to put away brushes and makeup and save grooming for non-instructional time.
We are a nation obsessed with our appearance, often to an unhealthy degree. We are sure everyone is judging us—our face, our body, our hair. Unfortunately, people do. But God doesn’t.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7b (NIV)
He wants us to be more concerned about kindness, goodness, joy, and peace. And when we meet someone with those traits, don’t we think of them as beautiful—once we get past our worldly training?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow…Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:28-29, 33 (NIV)
One final spin for us parents. The new theory touted in several books states that our children gain their body image from the way we express our own body image. What a responsibility to model God’s perspective.