I like lists. Little legalist that I am, I especially love it when lists tell me The Right Thing to Do. Going through Romans, it struck me that God, clearer than crystal, has provided a list of crucial matters for the Christian.
"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another." (Romans 12)Though gracious beyond imagining, the Lord hasn't left us wondering how to order our lives. In this and many other passages, He sets forth His will; His commands, given for our good, sit right there for the reading.
Anyway, for the purposes of this post, here's the salient point to notice about the Romans 12 commands: none of them have to do with curling irons. Thus, even if God cares about how I look (and I believe He does), on His scale of value that issue rates far below how zealous I am for peace and prayer; how patient I remain in tribulation; how genuine is my love; how generous is my hospitality; how gracious I am to the sorrowing and the hostile. Those qualities are close to His heart. He longs to see them worked out in His children, carefully cultivated in me.
Hmm. I meditate upon my image in the mirror more frequently than anything on that list. What does that sad fact reveal about where I've set my love, how I've ordered my life? To me, it says that I am seeking joy in quite the wrong place. I love my appearance more than I do God's glory.
Is my weight, or any other aspect of my appearance, so crucial to my happiness that it can affect the entire tone of my day? I would hope not, but unfortunately, most of the time the answer is yes. Consciously or not, you see, I have been busily manufacturing idols. Idols like how closely my hair approximates a picture in a magazine, the brand of clothing I can afford, a number on a scale. Such things have crept upwards in my heart until they have more power to affect me than the reality of Christ and His saving Gospel-- they direct my life, instead of being directed.
Here's what I need to remind myself as I battle those idols: I have a greater inheritance. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading . . . Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1). Wow. With that promise before her, a daughter of God has no business falling into depression over appearance.
Not to say that one's appearance is unimportant. Not at all. For example, my skin bothers me more than almost anything else in this area-- for the past thirteen-plus years it's been a battleground of inflammation and eczema, sometimes painful and sometimes just plain annoying-- and I know that God cares about it. He knows it hurts. He knows it's hard. He isn't sitting on His throne, rolling His eyes, and saying "Oh please Rebekah, I can't believe that bothers you!" And as shown by my writing an entire post about it last week, I believe that physical beauty is worth considering, if on different terms than much of the world does. :)
All the same, though,
As a simple jar of clay waiting for the eternal weight of glory, I can bear momentary afflictions with joy. I can accept the cracks and dirt that accumulate here on earth, "knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also.""We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies . . . knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence . . . So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4)