Monday, June 13, 2011

Christian Women And Beauty

(Mama and her girls)

She finishes painting my last toe and we continue talking as she motions for me to lie down on her cozy, pillowed aesthetics table. She begins to apply warm wax to my eyebrows while I recall an experience I had earlier. As I share, she erupts with genuine, belly laughter and I try not to, just in case I mess up the wax on my face. 

I come to visit Rebecca because she has become my friend and she is a Christian, but I wrestle with being a spa-go-er. I tell her I'm "low-maintenance" and that she probably won't be seeing me here for awhile since I don't "keep up" with my beauty treatments on a regular basis. She asks why and I stand dumb-founded with partial Scriptures running through my mind about not adorning the body and focusing on "self", etc., etc. But at the moment, standing there with my friend, they don't seem to be adequate. Rebecca uses her aesthetics business as a ministry and prays over and for each client, boldy proclaiming Christ. There is no doubt that God has called her to her little practice for such a time as this, for the women who frequent her spa. But, if she is called to minister to women through beauty treatments, "what makes it wrong for Christians to receive those beauty treatments?" Rebecca appeals to me. "My non-Christian clients will pay double the money to come here than my Christian clients. I don't understand. What makes it wrong for a woman to take care of herself?"

We hug goodbye and I make my way to my car, cautiously stepping over stones in the parking lot, as not to smudge my nail-polished toes peeking out of flip-flops. I'm left to think about why I, as well some other Christian women I know, feel we don't deserve? need? desire? should? take care of our bodies in a way that makes them beautiful. Barring the cost of aesthetics, what are other reasons why Christian women wouldn't have ugly old skin removed from their feet, or their faces cleared of impurities? If a woman is not into coloured fingernails, what would be so wrong about having her nails cleaned up and protected with a good clear coat? As Rebecca mentioned, money is not an object for many of her Christian clients so she desires to have a defined answer for why "God's Girls" can't look beautiful, clean and well taken care of. Aren't we His temple? Would the world want to join the "family" when so many of us are unconcerned with how we're being viewed? Of course, inner beauty is of utmost importance, and outer beauty shouldn't be an idol, but how are we Christian women coming across to the world? How does it appear that God is taking care of His women? These questions loll through my mind as I turn up the street to my home. I know that I have just a bit of the attitude that Rebecca is talking about. 

I curl up in a favourite chair with some popcorn and begin to think hard. I remember lying on my tummy as a little girl, on my mom's bed, chin resting in my palms as I watched her getting ready for a date with my dad. I was mesmerized by how she applied her make-up just so, and how she curled her hair with that butane curling iron that didn't need a plug. She wore a criss-crossy, wrap-around, floral dress that was very flattering and lovely to me. She sprayed herself with perfume and I knew that when I grew up, I was going to make myself gorgeous for my husband too. On Sundays, my mom would adorn my sisters' and my braids with satin ribbons and she would paint our nails once in awhile. On Saturday nights, she would wrap and clip sponge rollers in our hair and we'd sleep ever so stiffly, as not to pull out our precious curlers before morning. She often dressed us alike and everywhere we went, people commented on how cute we looked. We felt so feminine when my mom spent time showing us what to do with our long locks or dirty-from-playing fingernails.

Everyone knew my mom was a godly woman and they told her often that she took such good care of her girls. To my knowledge, no one thought she had put too much effort into herself or us but instead, they appreciated the loveliness of her outward beauty, as well as her true, inward, love and concern for people. At a time in our lives when our finances were not an issue, my mom would make regular manicure and hair appointments. My dad liked it that way.

So what happened in my mind? Somehow, at some point in my life, I began to believe a Christian woman should not spend money to take care of her personal self, at least by a professional. I say that this is a belief, because I actually do get my hair cut and my husband loves to gift me with the odd manicure or pedicure. But I had convinced myself I was visiting the spa in support of my friend rather than doing something to beautify myself. Rebecca's question plagued me and I began to pray and ask the Lord what His thoughts on the matter were.

Before I continue, I'd like to hear your voice on the matter... and so would Rebecca. What do you think? If money were no object, would beauty treatments be a part of your weekly/monthly/yearly regimen? For those who already visit aestheticians, what are your reasons? As a woman who loves to be in bare feet year round, get very few haircuts, rarely go to the mall, and (gasp) let my brows grow in, I began to take pride in how "low-maintenance" I was. But was I just not caring about myself? Was my lack of care reflective of my inward thoughts of myself? What message was I sending my daughters?  Hmmm.

Please share, even if you haven't before :)
To read Part Two of Christian Women and Beauty click here.

Gratitude... because it's Monday and because every subject can be used for thanks :)

831. for non-judgmental friends
832. how God cares about providing answers when we ask genuinely
833. discovering new things about ourselves
834. an aesthetician who provides services for free because she says she wants to bless me
835. differences in women and no matter what the outcome of the above question, we will remain beautifully different.


The Maretzki Family said...

My mom sometimes gets a special treat from Dad every once in a while to go out for a manicure or pedicure, and she goes out for a trip at the hair dresser when she needs one. My dad likes it that she always trys to stay pretty for him.
As for me, I haven't gotten into anything huge yet. Sometimes just painting my own nails, lip gloss, and curling my hair once in a while.

I thought this post was very thought-provoking! Can't wait to see Part 2....:)

Heather said...

Well, this topic is very interesting to me....
I would have to say that the feeling I have about "beautifying" yourself on the outside by having manicures, pedicures, hair cuts, make up etc is no different than wanting to look beautiful by being thin.
Most women consume themselves daily with how thin they can be and it isn't for "health" reasons but for vanity-most of the time.
So if you were to ask yourself the question of whether or not we as Christian women should indulge ourselves in esthetics, you should also ask yourself if you should dwell on how skinny you can be. They all consist of outward beauty.
I believe there isn't anything wrong with caring for yourself through beauty or weight maintanience, as long as it's a positive experience for you and those you love.
I love to wear make up, get my hair done, mani/pedi and if money was no issue, I would have it done regularly. Too bad weight loss didn't happen more easily-lol!

Anonymous said...

I have actually never thought about this before - I am also very low-mainenance, but mostly because I have no time to go/feel guilty making the time to go because it is for something that is not a necessity, and also the money thing;) In the past (my single life!), I did get the occassional manicure done and at that time, it was because I liked the idea of taking some time for myself and I do love the pampering;)
I think that we have to remember the point to which we are willing to go and also our motives! If we are trying to "feel" more beautiful, then there may be some heart issues there that no manicure can ever fix! If we are trying to keep up with our friends who seem to go once a week, then again, we may have some insecurity issues to pray about. If we don't go to God for healing, these small "beauty treatments" may turn into bigger things like plastic surgery or implants etc...
We need to see ourselves the way God sees us and love ourselves the way He loves us which is perfection! The best beauty treatment of all!

Cari said...

Definitely a thought provoking post. I think my "issue" with it is that I don't think spending the money on me to "beautify" is the best use of the resources God has given me. How is that extending the kingdom? I totally think we should take care of ourselves, look nice, and specifically do things that our husband's like. I don't think there is anything "wrong" in the occasional "treat". I just think there is a much better use of our time and resources. I believe we are here not for us but for Him and that all our thoughts, actions, and words should be tempered with that in mind. Even if I had unlimited funds, I think I would feel similarly. I would adopt, I would try to help the homeless and addicts and single moms in my town, I would try to do more things I couldn't do because of cost restraints rather than use that for my physical benefit.

Anna said...

Great topic! I look forward to part 2! I wrote a similar post back in '09, ( ) but I too had mostly unanswered questions such as: How do I explain to my daughter that she's beautiful just the way God made her as I'm putting my make-up on? I consider myself "low maintenance" as well, yet there are days when I'm overly concerned with my appearance (and days when I don't care at all- such as today being make-up free all day). I agree wtih Sarah, that we need to watch our motives. Why are we trying to beautify ourselves? Who are we trying to please? Are we using our resources wisely and stewardly? It is my prayer that I will adorn myself with the fruit of the Spirit and that my priority will not be how I look, but rather on glorifying my Heavenly Father who has "fearfully and wonderfully made us".

Meghan :P said...

No matter what, there are always going to be those people who judge others by their looks, and if all of the Christian ladies have notty hair, wore the same thing yesterday, and acts as though they don't care about themselves or their family, people are going to stay away from them. If we adorn ourselves in the Fruits and make sure that we take care of our families and ourselves then people will say, "she looks friendly" and see the Holy Spirit shining through and be drawn to us and want to start a conversation. I don't think it's wrong to have regular spa treatments, but there is a time when enough is enough. Don't spend your whole life trying to look "beautiful". We just need to treat the basics so we look like someone you want to talk to. It can be fun once in a while to get a card for a spa treatment, but if you go too often, then you get hooked on it, and it sucks at your wallet, and you become selfish and needy. I once read that what you look on the outside is a dirrect reflection on what you think about yourself on the inside.

Whatever your talent is, there are ALWAYS oppertunities for telling people about Christ. Just make sure that you use it for Jesus, not for other reasons.

Meghan <>< <3

Heather@Cultivated Lives said...

What an interesting post, Heather. I'm so conflicted. On the one hand, I've seen people go to the extreme of using the verses about not adorning the outward as an excuse to not properly take care of themselves, their appearance and be a good steward of the body they've been given. It used to frustrate some of the single guys I knew when the single ladies would get all huffy and say men were shallow for looking at appearances... But then I've also seen the other end where there have been women dressed to the nines, hair perfectly coifed, cut, highlighted every 6 weeks. And they've chided other women for not getting their nails done and keeping up with their appearances more. In my old church there was a lot of pressure to look amazing and have the perfect clothes, perfect nails, perfect tan, etc that I felt distracted from the message of the gospel because it turned our hearts and minds towards trying to fit in and keep up with the 'beautiful women'...

As with everything I think there is balance. I tend to be proud of my 'low-maintenance' status and yet I used to always be good about pulling myself together each morning. Lately I've been slipping with that and I wonder if I use the badge of 'low-maintenance' as an excuse for laziness. My husband certainly loves it when I style my hair and put on make-up. It makes it so much more pleasant to come home to a cheerful, well-put together wife. And I must admit that when I take a little bit of time to pamper myself and such that my attitude perks up which makes me more attractive to him and probably more happy and approachable to other people as well.

So much food for thought... If money were no object, I would get my haircut more often and go in for a couple of pedicures a year. I'm a barefood girl too and that puts a beating on my poor feet.

C Laman said...

I'll be the odd one out (man that is).

Here is my perspective at "face" value (pun intended).

My wife seldom wears any make-up of any form. I met her, and she wasn't wearing any...this was ironically, extremely attractive. I fell in love with her natural beauty...and she still looks as beautiful as the day I met her.

For those special occasions she'll add that touch of mascara, that colour to her eyelids, that kiss of rose to her lips all to really take my breath away and make me say "WOW! You look gorgeous tonight!"

Which brings me to my point.

It is very rewarding for me as a husband to say "yes" to my wife when she asks for that cut and colour. It is very rewarding to say "yes" to her for that mani/pedi.

Rarely does she ask, but when she does...I begin to bubble up with anticipation (aka butterflies in tummy) because I know how grateful she'll be, the glow of relaxation of time for herself, and the stunning beauty that leaves me picking my jaw up off the floor.

Why? Because as a couple we both savour the moments, and bask in the results even if for just a short moment or two.

|||||-> Sidenote: I once bought a very elaborate spa package for Katie and I as a birthday gift for her (that's a story that needs to be told in person). We both thoroughly enjoyed it, and I soon hope to duplicate the experience for the reasons above.

You see you aren't asking to become the high-maintenance "posh" Heather V of Waterdown, and that to me is key.

You have been blessed to be gifted enough to teach your kids at home. You've been blessed to have a husband working 1 minute from home, you've been blessed to own a successful business which frequently blesses so many people.

In whatever frequency you and Terry could agree on, I'd say go for it.

Allow yourself to be blessed by a woman in your life, whom like so many have also been a blessing to.

Heather said...

Thank you all so much for commenting. I really appreciate it. If anyone else wants to contribute, feel free. I will be posting Part 2 soon!

Pure Perseverance said...

I just came back from California and it so weird when I went to the spa for a mani-pedi (just learned that term). I felt very much that I wasting money, but I also felt quite beautiful (felt guilty for that). The war raged within me. Guess which side won? I will take care of myself, not only for me but for my girls. They are watching and I certainly want them to grow up caring for themselves because they are worth it. Aren't I? I truly believe God (my Daddy) thinks I'm worth it, too!

Your friend is a real blessing. May God continue filling her so that she may pass it along to others.

My mom is an esthetician and I haven't even used her services (CRRAZY)! Will be now!

BlackSunshine said...

There is one word that comes to mind when I think of taking care of myself physically as a woman of God compared to women of the world. That word is intention. I take care of myself with the intention of being clean, lovely, respectable, etc. I don't do it for the recognition of other people. And there is no excess. Expensive hair coloring, weekly manicures and pedicures and highly expensive makeup is overly excessive to me. God has told us that the body is a temple and that we need to respect it and take care of it. God loves us and wants us to feel respect for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with that.