Like many women I spend a wasteful amount of time and thought on how others, especially my husband, view my outward appearance.
Much of who I believe myself to be is formed in front of the bathroom mirror or reflected in the automatic glass doors that greet me at the local shopping centre. They slide quickly open, but not quite fast enough. The top to toe view of self as I walk towards them will most often cause me to cringe.
Image is an advertisers dream.
We're told we will look amazing if we drink this, eat that, wear this, go there, join here etc etc...
The ceaseless advertising that tells us we're ugly, out-of-fashion, overweight, lonely, unhealthy and lazy reminds me of the bombing raids of WW2; dropping one bomb after another, scaring the wits from a person and removing all sense of physical and emotional security. With no idea when the next onslaught would come, life was an hour by hour watch and wait roller coaster.
Advertising 'bombs' can unsettle even the most confident of women at some stage or another, whilst the least fragile of our gender may be feeling the shattering effects in a day to day battle.
We are told via all forms of advertising that our skin 'needs' product A to delay aging, 'will be happier and toned' by joining Group B, 'will looked better' wearing C's new wardrobe, can 'trust we are loved' if our husband gives us D's diamonds - and whether you truly believe them or not those insidious lies are driven deeper and deeper into our mind until we unwittingly see our worth through a distorted and unbalanced mirror.
But it's not just advertising which has the power to camouflage truth and magnify discontent.
Words from the past, especially childhood, may rise up to crush our self esteem too.
For example, my father never said a single positive word to me. When I was expecting my first child his comment to a friend was, "Give her a push and she'll roll for a mile".
When I was raped at age 14 he took side with the three boys because their father was a sports hero he had long admired.
Now over the course of my life much of the 'less' I see myself to be stems from the abuse, neglect and cruelty of my dad, and the saddest thing is that I transferred all my insecurities from that father/daughter relationship onto my first (failed) marriage as a 17 year old, and then onto my second (wonderfully blessed) marriage to Mr E.
The damage of my childhood was etched so deep that not even the unconditional and faithful love of my husband through our 24 year (and still going strong) marriage has been able to dislodge it.
And this is where I arrive at today's Scripture.
I've been studying slowly through 1 Peter over the past month because I want to extract as many hidden gems as the Lord will give me, but the longest time has been spent pondering and praying
through 1 Peter 3:1-4...
**Likewise you wives, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.
Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, or wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorrigible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.**
As much as I think (or have been conditioned to think) that my fading and aging beauty can be restored with a wonder cream, gym membership, plastic surgery, herbal tonics, Weight Watchers, fashion wardrobe, personal trainer, or expensive makeover (all which will apparently cause me to 'hold the attention and admiration' of the man of my dreams) this is a lie straight from the arsenal of satan.
You see, my dear husband dislikes make-up and fancy clothes, gyms and fitness regimes, perfume and pomp, but what he dislikes most is when I speak down about myself.
So when I took that TRUTH from the heart of the man who loves me most and let it simmer in my thoughts for a while it became quite obvious that I've perhaps been trying to look good for the world and not just him, so this is another insidious deception I've swallowed from the father of lies.
After all, social media and advertising these days is all about 'look at me', 'listen to me', 'compare yourself to me'. More bombs. More to feel insecure about. More things to try. More faces and bodies better looking than I could ever hope to be. More reminders I am failing.
But back to truth...
Exposing the lies doesn't automatically mean I am able to cast off my personal insecurities, or look in the mirror and say "hey, you're beautiful, Jenny" - but it does mean that I can say out loud every time my low self opinion bites with a lie, "Outward appearance will not hold the heart of my beloved, but my gentleness, my daily encouragement of him, my desire to enjoy him, my faithfulness, my kindness, my personal confidence, my heart to serve delightfully, my love for Jesus and the Word of God - these do hold his heart every day and most importantly my inward beauty is magnified!"
Breaking of old habits and ancient thought patterns is not an overnight achievement for most people and it's certainly not for me, but until the Lord returns or He whisks me away from this earthly life I intend holding fast to the wise teaching from Peter and walking in the promise of Proverbs 31:30...
** Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.**
My husband praises me every day for who I am, and what he loves about me.
Yet only once in 24 years has he told me I'm pretty.
He never saw that as important.
I should have listened to him more.
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