“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7 (NIV).
Having a nine year age difference between our oldest and our youngest gives a different perspective for parenting than when our only children were a mere three years apart. I love watching the innocence in our youngest. The contrast of total abandon with the self consciousness that has crept into our older two, though, makes me sad. I remember a time when our older two shared that same reckless unconscious awareness of others’ perceptions and concentrated solely on enjoying the experience. Through our older two, I’m reminded of what happens when the world’s misconceptions creep into our subconscious and the innocence of babes is replaced with worry over image.
Our three-year-old loves to parade around the house shirtless. He’ll run around, flexing his muscles, proud of how big he’s getting and how much stronger he is. He doesn’t care who sees him, and actually shows off to others, not caring if he’s the best; loving exactly the way God made him. Contrast that with the message society gives our daughters to look a certain way and maintain an impossible weight. Don’t forget the pressure that middle school and high schoolers are faced with if they happen to fall outside the “norm” of their friends and are either early or late developers. Their bodies are perfectly formed; yet they’re made to feel inferior because they don’t fall into the impossible standard set by society.
Counteracting the messages our children are bombarded with on a daily basis can seem dauntless; however, it doesn’t have to be. Our children may not remain unscathed, but the damage performed on their psyche can be less when we keep reminding them to return to the Word and read what standard God measures us by. While God does want us to take care of our temples (bodies), it’s not with the idea that we worship them or maintain a physique enviable to all our friends. No, the goal for our outward body is solely to maintain optimal health so we can carry out the purpose God has for our lives instead of being run down with sickness or lack of energy.
No, God cares about our inward beauty: Our heart, our attitudes, our responses to others when they hurt us, our ability to reach out to others and show them Christ’s love. To maintain inward beauty also takes a lot of time and effort. Studying God’s Word, practicing kindness, learning to praise God through difficulties and allowing His joy to shine through our lives isn’t an innate gift. It requires practice, a conscious decision to do the right thing, and sometimes a choice to go against the crowd, no matter the cost.
I know there’ll probably come a time when my littlest becomes self conscious. I pray that while my children are being bombarded with messages from society regarding how they measure up, that counteracting those beliefs with the truth from God’s Word will lessen it’s impact. As my children grow their inward beauty, I pray it helps them shine like a light which inevitably will make them more attractive on the outside as well.
Copyright 2013: Cheri Swalwell