I have trouble knowing how to discuss this with peers, because I don't want to come across as judgmental. I'm not discussing moral blacks and whites here. I simply love to tell the story of how I became free from a burden I didn't even know I was carrying. I long to see us all freed from our unknown burdens and have them placed at the feet of the empty cross.
I remember in grade nine I felt inferior because I didn't own pretty clothes or wear make-up. I remember coming to school every day and watching girls walk by that were prettier than me, and I saw all the attention they got. I looked at them with awe and a little jealousy, and I began to want other people to look at me with awe and jealousy. I wanted to fit in and I wanted to be extraordinary. I wanted to be confident, and I figured the only way to be confident was to have people affirm me. I would feel more comfortable in my skin if other people liked it, right?
I remember buying make-up for the first time and practicing applying it in my room. I remember, too, the first time I bought skinny jeans and the kind of tops that flowed off the curves of my body. I liked myself more after that because I saw that other people liked me more. I was happy.
I noticed more of the details in girls' appearances after that. I saw that some girls had coloured shadows on their eyelids and curled lashes. I saw that lots of girls had hair too blonde to be real and too straight to be natural. I saw them getting affirmed and I wanted that, too. I wanted to be liked so that I could like myself.
And I went out and bought a straightener and hair dye and an eye lash curler (who even knew those existed?!). Then I bought more skinny jeans and flow-y tops and necklaces and high heels and those glasses frames that all the hipsters wear.
I was happy when I came to Redeemer. But also sad because there are so many pretty girls here. I wanted to be pretty and so I bought more pretty clothes, got the expensive kind of make-up this time, and I practiced applying it my dorm room. There are so many girls here that wear clothing that is interesting and intriguing, and, especially in my first year here, I wanted to have that same attention they got. So many girls place their identity in their appearance, and I am that girl, too.
Some things take you suddenly, dramatically altering your thoughts, feelings, and relationships in an instant. Other things begin to hold you captive gradually over time, without any conscious knowledge of the influence that they hold over you.
Addiction is all encompassing – it maliciously slips its way into every aspect of a person's life as soon as it has taken root. It leaves its mark on every sphere of life without consent or notification. Idols are habits you can't stop, even if God called you to quit.
I'm learning that it's a burden. Trying to fill my void with attention from outward appearance is so suffocating, because you never get filled. Alas, I came to realize: Christ fills that void.
And what freedom I experienced when I let my burden go. I threw out my make-up. All of it, no looking back. And I rid myself of nearly half my wardrobe. Oh, it was bliss. I'm beginning the long journey of placing all my identity in Him and Him alone, and I've never been so filled. Finally, my identity is in something greater than myself, and I feel that this is how I was made to live.
I say this not to place myself any higher than anyone else, because I can't tell you how many times I've stumbled. My wardrobe grows like a weed: a clear sign to me that I have a habit I can't stop. It's a continuing struggle to let my idol go.
But believe me when I tell you what a joy it is every time I lift my idol up to God. He takes it. He takes my burden and puts it on Himself.
I learned in my Introduction to Theology class last week that we can get to know God in a few different ways, and one of them is through our practices.
What does our practice of applying make-up teach us about God? Are we sending ourselves false messages? That He didn't quite make us good? That His image in us needs to be supplemented? How do we apply make-up all for Jesus anyway?
The biggest difference I noticed in myself when I stopped wearing make-up was not just that my self-confidence increased and my self-hatred decreased. It was simply that I began thinking about myself less. I never thought I'd quite reach this point, but I can honestly say I hardly even consider my appearance throughout the day. I still have so much to learn, but slowly my attention is shifting away from my own self. And it is so glorious that I long for everyone to experience this divine liberation, too.