This is the second part to this post. The first is available here
I used to beat myself up with these thoughts so many times: how can I as a Christian invest my time into dressing up, doing my hair, looking good, when people are going to hell?! I should be spending every available second preaching or praying, or reading my Bible in case I could prevent just one extra soul from going to hell! How can I spend my money on these things, when I should be buying Bibles etc?!
If you have never beaten yourself up in that way, then you might not understand how all-consuming these thoughts can be. I seriously grappled with these thoughts for months, if not years, and sure enough, in those years, I did not look my most attractive, to put it mildly. In addition to that I had a bad habit which I am not going to go into – people who know me will most likely know what I am talking about. So please believe me, I’ve had years of looking dreadful. This is not a matter of theory, this is a matter of my own real life experience. And then people would insist on tagging me in Facebook photos of that era of my life, wouldn’t they?!!!
And that is how it continued until one day it finally dawned on me that not looking good just made me feel miserable, which in itself diminishes my effectiveness in all these other things. On other other hand, when I look good, I feel good, I feel more full of joy. I need this for my mental well-being, the same way my body needs food and sleep. Believe it or not there were also days I tried to go without sleeping at all, so that I would have more time to pray. I mean, I still pull prayer all-nighters now – what I mean is that I tried to get to the place where I did not sleep at all, on any night whatsoever – until it occurred to me that a dead Christian cannot be a very prayerful Christian. It’s somewhat funny to write all these things now, but at the time I was “deadly” serious – ha ha ha!
It is still an issue of balance, of course. I still think that consideration for the Kingdom of God and winning souls has to be my overwhelming preoccupation, above how I look. That said I will go as far as I need to go in terms of my appearance for the sake of my own well-being and self-esteem. And trust me, I like to look good! I can’t help remembering those years… And then some “Christians” will insinuate oh so subtly that I’m “too much into my looks”. These people I feel like dismissing with a casual flick of my wrist. If you knew how much I have personally tortured myself about this thing. If you knew the sacrifices that I have personally made. But of course you don’t. You just take one look, make a silly assumption, jump to a completely untrue conclusion…
What are we allowed to do?
For me, as I have said, the issue is going as far as I need to go for the sake of my mental well-being and self-esteem. Yes, there are verses in the New Testament that speak against dressing elaborately. However there are also verses in the Old Testament that celebrate feminine beauty…and elaborate clothes…and wearing gold and expensive jewellery…and perfume. One such example is the story of Rebekah, when Abraham’s servant went to find a wife for Isaac. Firstly the Bible makes it clear that Rebekah was very beautiful: Genesis 24v16. And then later on in the account we are told that the servant gives Rebekah gifts of gold and silver and clothing Genesis 24v22, v53.
There is also the account of Queen Esther, who spent a whole year beautifying herself with beauty treatments and ointments, before going in to King Xerxes/Ahasuerus – and finally being chosen as a new Queen. Esther 2v12. Esther is also described as being very beautiful: Esther 2v7. Other women in the Bible specifically named as beautiful include Sarah, Rachel and Abigail. (There is also a reference in Song of Solomon to wearing eyeshadow, which I cannot find just now!) On balance, I think that God clearly does not despise feminine beauty. I think that as Christians we have to be careful to not go overboard, not to display our wealth through our clothing (which is exactly what many of us Nigerians do!) however I think that there is a legitimate place for dressing attractively, (not seductively), looking pretty, looking beautiful.
Most of this has focused on female beauty. However I’m sure that it can extend perfectly well to men too! When I talk about Mr HW as being attractive, I mean making an effort to iron his (reasonably well coordinated) clothes, polish his shoes, look clean, well groomed, presentable, with clean nails – and to also smile! And then for me, particularly a smart suit and tie with a crisply ironed shirt can rarely go amiss! The Bible refers to the young David in the Old Testament as being “ruddy and handsome“. Men can be just as deceiving with outward good looks as woman can be, of course, and some Christian men go completely over the top with expensive suits and diamond rings which I personally find distasteful and off-putting. However, I personally don’t think there is anything wrong in the slightest with looking at someone and thinking: “Hmm, that is one fine brother!” (So now you know!!!!)
Now the young woman was very beautiful to behold….
…The young woman was lovely and beautiful.…
1 Samuel 16v18:
18 Then one of the servants answered and said, “Look, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him.”
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