When I was five years old, I was convinced my mother was the most beautiful woman in the world. I remember sitting in the tiny bathroom in our home watching her put on her makeup complete with red lipstick.
Mom had acne scars so she always wore foundation and powder. When she put on the makeup it seemed she transformed before my eyes. I loved watching with amazement.
She didn’t wear eye makeup, but she loved bright red lipstick. With her dark hair and trim body, she looked like a movie star to me.
“Mommy, can I wear some lipstick?” I asked.
She laughed. “You’re too young for red, but maybe we’ll get you some you can play with. Every little girl needs to feel beautiful.” She ruffled my hair and then went back to finishing her makeup.
She had just finished applying her lipstick when my dad came down the hall to hurry us along. He was supply preaching at a small Pentecostal church in town.
He took one look at her and his face went white. “You need to take off the lipstick,” he whispered urgently. “You can’t wear red lipstick to church.”
Her face fell as she began to wash off the lipstick. I was sad. Her beauty seemed to fade as the red found its way down the sink drain.
“Why does Daddy not like lipstick? It makes you look so beautiful.”
“He thinks being too beautiful is sinful.”
“But why? Does God like beautiful things.”
“You go get your shoes on and find your Bible. We don’t have time to talk about it now.”
In the car, I tried to continue the conversation with my Daddy.
“When I get to be a big girl I’m going to wear makeup,” I said.
“Because it’s not what good Christian girls do.”
For some reason that particular answer satisfied me at the time. After all, he was a preacher. He should know.
So for the next 55 years, I didn’t wear makeup. There were a few times as an adult I would go to makeup parties and buy makeup, but having not learned how to apply it correctly, I felt totally inept. Mostly, I just used a little powder and lip gloss ever once in awhile.
After all, I was a good Christian girl.
As I got older I understood what my father’s issue was with makeup, shorts, sleeveless dresses, low-cut dresses, tight fitting clothes on women and even pants of any kind on women.
He felt it indicated a woman of loose morals who wanted to attract men.
At age 11, I was sexually molested by a friend of the family. I didn’t tell anyone about it. As a pre-teen I determined I would stay away from him and I would follow all my father’s rules about what to wear and how to look. Well, all of them except pants because in my way of thinking pants protected me in a way a dress couldn’t.
When I got to be a teenager, my mother began talking to me about boys. The feeling I got from those talks was that if I became sexually active before marriage, it would be all my fault because I would be too beautiful.
That’s probably not what she said, but that’s the way I interpreted it. With all the precautions and her feeling this would be something terrible to happen outside of marriage, I wanted nothing to do with being “sexy”.
I did many things to make sure I didn’t attract the wrong kind of man to take advantage of me. I know it is part of the reason I had such a disconnect with losing weight and keeping it off.
If a man told me I looked nice, I would start to eat again. That seemed to be justification that it was all right for me to do.
I’ve done a lot of work in this area especially in the last 1o years losing over 250 pounds. Even up to last year, though, I still wondered if after losing the weight there might be a situation where I’d start gaining again.
So, I forgave everyone ever involved in making me feel like I might be leading a man astray if I looked like a woman. All of this was good to relieve a lot of emotional misconceptions. However, it wasn’t until I forgave myself that the BIG breakthrough really came.
What did I have to forgive myself for? Wasn’t I the victim?
My own pride and desires though were at the root of my issue. I didn’t want to lose weight, wear makeup, style my hair, get my nails done, buy nice clothes because of fear of pride. I didn’t want to be too prideful of looking nice. In addition, I didn’t trust myself to look too good.
There was always this fine line I walked between looking presentable and yet not looking too attractive. OK, I know, I should have just thrown a sack over my head and not worried about it. Funny thing, that’s pretty much how I looked in anything I wore when I weighed 430 pounds.
Forgiving myself for this hidden desire that seemed to loom so large that I might have to “feed” it, was very freeing. Perhaps it was a fear that this would happen. All I know is forgiving myself for this convoluted feeling set me free. I gave the Holy Spirit this fear and He gave me strength and peace.
Last year, I as I was finishing my book, Sweet Grace, I got some advice from a mentor. “I want you to get your hair done, learn to put on makeup, get your nails done and buy some new clothes. You need to feel beautiful so your inner beauty can shine.”
I was 60 years old. It was about time I learned how to really look like a woman. My niece gave me lessons especially in foundation and eye makeup. I found an awesome hair dresser and a great nail salon. I got some new clothes. I allowed myself to feel pretty for the first time.
I realized this is the real me. It’s how God made me. I’m a strong, beautiful woman. I am not afraid. God’s got my back.
Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I literally felt the weight of it in my spirit. This is the fear thousands, maybe millions, of women feel! Many have more of a reason to have this fear than I do. It’s a fear of what others might do to them, but it is also a fear of their own sexuality, a beauty so strong it naturally draws men to them.
Our society has made an idol of the female body. In some way, either overt or covert, sex is the selling point for every major advertiser. It’s the tension between most men and women. Sex outside of marriage and the pull towards that, is something Godly men and women must guard against at every turn.
And yet, if we are sold out to God and allow His Holy Spirit to lead us each step of the way, we do not need not be afraid of our humanity. He made us as sexual beings. It is a gift He gave us. Used appropriately in marriage, sexuality, combined with emotional and spiritual connection, becomes an intimate bond between husband and wife. So why are we so afraid of this beautiful gift?
Of course we are afraid of the misuse of the gift, a burning desire we cannot quench. Fleshly desires come in all shapes and sizes. Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”1
It is true, if Jesus could do it, so can we. He gave up His divinity for the time He lived on earth as a human with flesh, blood and desires. He was tempted in all ways like we were but didn’t sin.2
How did he do it? Many times we see Jesus pulling aside to commune with His heavenly Father. He had to go get instructions. He knew as a human. His connection to the Father was what kept Him alive and gave Him power to overcome the pull of the world.
We have access to this same kind of connection through the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit is the One who will lead, guide, teach and comfort them.3
The disciples were worried because Jesus was talking about leaving for good. They weren’t sure they could carry on this Kingdom business without Him watching over them.
His reassurance to them was that it would be better for them if He went away. As a man, He couldn’t be everywhere at once. Ah, but the Holy Spirit is a different matter all together. He is the Spirit of Christ and can be with all believers at once.
It’s the same power that raised Christ from the dead.4 Surely He can take care of our simple desires, if we will totally submit them to Him. The desires, the cravings for anything that pulls us further from God, only control us if we give them that control.
The Holy Spirit will lead us and be powerful within us, but ONLY if we ask Him, only if we want Him to be. If we ask Him to, He will begin to lead us, warn us and give us guidance.
Walking with Him, then, becomes a marvelous adventure in abundance.5 By His very nature God’s Spirit is a never ending source of strength, power, love, peace and abundance. He is everything you and I need right now.
I don’t think He minds when I put a little paint on this old barn. However, He calls me beautiful whether there’s paint there or not.
1 John 16:33 NLT
2 Hebrews 4:15 NIV
3 John 14:16-17, 26; John 15:26; John 16:13-14 NIV
4 Romans 8:11 NIV
5 John 10:10 NKJV
is Teresa Shields Parker’s new group on living healthy through a total renovation of body, soul and spirit. Teresa chronicles her journey in the memoir, Sweet Grace, and the practical application workbook, Sweet Grace Study Guide. Also, get a free chapter of her memoir at Teresa Shields Parker.com. Connect with her there or on her Facebook page.