I read with interest your columns on beauty. I am concerned about how the idea that women have to be "pretty on the outside" in order to have successful relationships may affect women who have little to no chance of achieving external attractiveness.
I am a Christian; I am also a medical resident, specializing in psychiatry. During the course of my training, I have worked with many patients who have been disfigured as a result of accidents or illnesses. The 20-year-old woman severely burned in a house fire, who will be left with severe scars all over her face and upper body. Women with birth defects prominently affecting the face. The woman who lost her jaw to a childhood cancer. The 23-year-old with colon cancer, who will need an ostomy bag the rest of her life.
What would you do if one of these women came to you and asked if she would ever find a husband? After all, if even good Christian men won't consider a relationship with a woman who doesn't visually appeal to them, what chance do they have?
I think it is important that Christian communities address their issues of ALL our brothers and sisters, not merely the ones who have a shot at beauty.
I received this question after answering several beauty-related questions as well as writing some beauty-related blogs. It's taken me a while to answer in large part because I knew this was a weighty question that deserved an equally serious reply. But I wasn't sure what to say. Then recently I was reading Ellen Varughese's The Freedom to Marry and was so glad to see her address this issue of physical disfiguration.
She begins the chapter "Be an Overcomer!" with this exhortation, "Satan, in his capacity as liar, wants you to think you'll never get married. He especially wants you to think you're poor marriage material when the truth is, you'll make an excellent husband or wife."
She then points readers to what the Bible has to say about beauty.
Proverbs 31:30 says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."
And 1 Peter 3:3-5 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands...."
Varughese acknowledges we live in a society that focuses on externals but says physical handicaps or disfigurement need not mean you can't get married. She offers several points of action and encouragement:
True friends will look beyond your "defect"; Certain "defects" can be corrected; You can carry yourself with dignity; You can pay attention to your appearance; and Remember, God created you.... Let people admire you [for traits beyond your looks]; Let people help you; and Avoid bitterness.
I would add this encouragement — Psalm 68:5-6 says,
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.
It says "lonely," not "lovely." We serve a God who is bigger than any physical limitation.
Note: This reader ended her question by answering it. I thought what she had to say was worth including:
By the way, would you like to know how I would respond to these women? Of course it's easier if you're conventionally attractive (believe me, they know that already). But I remember the babies who I delivered to women who topped 300 pounds, the 95-year-old woman married for 25 years to a man 30 years her junior, or the woman with spina bifida, an amputated leg, and multiple birth defects, who's now the proud mom of an 18-month-old, and I realize — there just may be someone for everyone. There are no guarantees — but that doesn't mean there is no hope.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.