Ugh! Pleasing to the eye (Blog #Oh Eve!) is unrelenting, believed and battled since Eve. Oh, how humanity’s generations since have suffered! We all have our own story.
Sarah was asked by her husband Abraham, to pose as his sister because he was afraid that he would be killed for her, she was “a beautiful woman” (Genesis 12:10-13, NIV).
Rachel was chosen by Jacob. “She had a lovely figure and was beautiful”. He loved her more than Leah who had “weak eyes” (Genesis 29:17, NIV).
Esther, a young Jewess, was selected to parade on King Xerxes’ runway. He needed a new queen. She “had a lovely figure and was beautiful” (Esther 2:7, NIV). This is her story –
Queen Vashti was summoned, “to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at” (Esther 1:11, NIV). Her beauty appealed to the King’s arrogance, made him feel like a successful man, made him think he was desirable, having that x-sex-factor to have claimed for himself someone like her. I guess she’d had enough of being the object of other men’s amourous ogling. She refused the King. No one does that. The King, moments before the conqueror and possessor of such a prize, is now humiliated and furious before his audience, all looking on at what had now become a show of authority. What would he do? Maybe he loved her in a warped kind of way, but keeping face was elevated over any kind of love he may have had for her, so he had her banished. A new queen had to be appointed…Esther, along with many other beautiful young girls, was chosen to audition before the King.
In the language that deceived Eve, these girls were “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6, NIV). The new harem went through vigorous beauty treatments for 12 months. 6 months with oils to purify and smooth the skin, and to remove any unwanted spots, and blemishes! Followed by 6 months with perfumes and cosmetics – the aroma, the best makeup, and makeup artists – and, anything she wanted on the night of her showing to seduce the King. She could choose clothes, jewellery, shoes, handbags, exotic flowers, or animals, anything that would allure and capture the King’s attention. Anything to make her more “pleasing to the eye!” Anything to be chosen.
In these young women, already beautiful, a deep lie in their hearts was reinforced – she had to be outwardly beautiful to be chosen. Who even determines that?! As she was, she was not lovely enough, not good enough, not beautiful enough, so she had to undergo treatments, do whatever it took because to be body imperfect was to be judged negatively.
And, it produced fear – would she be pleasing to the King? What if she wasn’t beautiful enough? What if she was rejected? For the girls, not chosen, they would spend the rest of their lives in the King’s harem, cared for, but alone. Being alone is the fear of not being “pleasing to the eye”. We want to be chosen. We don’t want to be alone.
Esther’s story shows how we have fallen, like Eve, from finding our value in God to our worth being based in the physical. Her’s was both a Divine choosing and the King’s choice. Her beauty was what sealed the choice for the King, but it was her heart and intelligence that God used to save her people. While the King chose her for her looks, God chose her for her internal worth (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).
Some years ago I, and a few others went to Patpong in Thailand, the Red Light district. We visited a prostitution rescue center called Rahab Ministries. I took photos of the flashing signs and billboards on this street. The sign which touched me most deeply read, “Ugly Girls, cheap!” How would it feel to be the ugly girl? Her value was ‘cheap’. Her worth was based on her face. How warped is this world’s sense of value, based on the physical? The result is a nagging sense of not enough. Not pretty enough. Not confident enough. Not strong enough. Not skinny enough. Not smart enough. Not good enough. Not lovely enough. Ugly!
We chase diets, fashion, hairstyles, make-overs, exercise. We immerse ourselves in careers, religion, charities, activities, and family, thinking, If I can’t look enough, maybe I can ‘do’ to feel enough. We go from relationship to relationship, covertly asking, Do you think I am desirable? Am I lovely? Have I got what it takes to make you feel satisfied? Am I enough for you? Will you get sick of me and go looking elsewhere? What else do I need to do for you to be satisfied and content with me and who I really am on the inside, behind my makeup and my clothes and my body?
When we are exhausted from striving, we fall instead to resignation. We give up, put up a shield and hide. We put on our big clothes and say, I don’t care! We turn from the mirror disgusted or at best say to ourselves, that’ll have to do. We know we don’t reach the standard and so that nagging ache continues, I am not enough. We “eat, (filling our lives with things to make us feel good) but not have enough” (Hosea 4:10, NIV). We don’t feel satisfied. We are seeking worth where worth cannot be found.
When will enough be enough?
Not enough is a lie! Pleasing to the eye is a curse! God’s love is the only place to find our true worth. It satisfies fully the ache of not enough. The love displayed in Hosea¹, “love her as the LORD loves” (Hosea 3:1, NIV) declares this truth –
I am enough. I don’t have to do anything more or be anything more. I am adored and delighted in. God loves me, the real me, all of me. He chooses me. I will not be left alone. He isn’t trying to change my personality or looks because they embarrass Him or don’t make Him look good. And when my beauty fades, His love can still meet every need I have.
These things I know in my head, but how hard it is to exchange these for that original lie that speaks so powerfully strong in my heart.
“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:3-4, NLT).
It could be easy to get offended by these words of St Peter. He did not say this to keep us bound in what has become the erroneous notion of godly or biblical submission of women, the traditional weapon for this in the past. Rather to live free from the curse of attaining to whatever it is, and whoever it is, that decides what is “pleasing to the eye” and what is not. He is speaking to our worth –
“Don’t be concerned about…
Peter implores us not to anxiously strive after,
“the outward beauty of…
those things that apparently make us more pleasing, attractive, impressive, captivating, that give pleasure to the mind and senses. The things that attract the gaze, attention, and praise of others, like,
“fancy hairstyles, jewelry and beautiful clothes…
Peter is not discouraging women from looking beautiful, but to highlight the underlying battle of doing so to mask, disguise and conceal the ache on the inside of, am I enough? The lie that we have to be “pleasing to the eye”.
“Instead, it should be that of your inner self…
He goes beyond this skin-deep issue to the inside, the place of true worth,
“The unfading beauty of…
outwardly beautifying is fickle, changing and temporary. Lasting, enduring and unchanging beauty is,
“a gentle and quiet spirit…
Oh, we could be so offended! How these words have been abused! It’s not about having a calm, gentle, submissive, without make-up, barefoot and pregnant, demeanor. Rather about ceasing that continual pursuit – the question of our value – that incessant chatter inside our minds which is loud and unrelenting. The attention we all give to the physical is obvious. We are value seekers. Desperate to know the truth about ourselves. A captivating beautiful spirit is seen in one who has discovered that she is enough. She is untroubled, she has stopped striving, she is free from outwardly beautifying to inwardly feel loved.
“which is so precious to God…”
The truth Eve knew – loved to her very soul – was what mattered. The fact that she was, was loved. Like Eve, we were created to walk and hear and live in the truth of how God sees us. Very Good. Perfectly Loved.
Finding our way back to Perfect Love is the only thing that can stop us trying to prove to our ourselves, and our messed up world with it’s warped picture-perfect, the-girl-next-door view, that we constantly compare and compete with. “Pleasing to the eye” is the deceptive lie we have built our lives on. It has reduced to a whisper the truth that we are enough.
Listen! We are enough!
Continued in next week’s blog…
¹Hosea was a prophet of God to the nation of Israel. It is where much of this journey of love has been awakened. His story is found in the Old Testament part of the Bible. Read more here.