Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Vanity at the Cosmetic Counter

I have shopped more in the last two days than I have in years. We have hit every store in town, it seems. Our current activities made a conversation naturally unfold between my mom and me. I will share it with you with my embellishments, of course.

One morning I was sitting and reading my bible, and my mom was sitting doing her study. I can’t remember why we were talking about this, but she asked me how fundamentalists choose their rules. This question, as all theological rabbit trails, appealed to me.

My answer was something like, “sometimes haphazardly”. It seems that you might never get two fundamentalist congregations to agree on a fundamental emphasis. Their specific emphasis reflects their experience as a community. So, really, how can you answer this question? People adhere to things that they think are important and those become central to their faith. We all have points that we stress.

Since I was reading Acts, I decided to go back to chapter 15 where these questions were being discussed by people I trust. These original patriarchs of the faith were bombarded with questions from the apostles, themselves, and the Jews about what would make these Gentile converts a part of this new body of believers. Verse 19 sums it up,

“Therefore I have reached the decision that we should not trouble those Gentiles who are turning to God, but we should write to them to abstain only from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from whatever has been strangled and from blood.”

These three practices were the only restrictions that the apostles believed right to impose on believers without a Jewish heritage. The Gentiles should abstain from things polluted by idols, from fornication and from improper killing and preparation of animals.The one that stuck with me was to abstain from things polluted by idols. Here, of course, they were talking about food. Really, I have to hand it over to Paul to describe what an idol is…1 Corinthians 10:14-22,

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from the worship of idols. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices partners in the altar? What do I imply then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

Don’t you think that this definition can be applied to many kinds of idols? What is sacrificed to idols is sacrificed to something other than God. I don’t want to partner with anything other than God.

So…I have been shopping for days. I have witnessed so many ways that people partner with their altars. I have seen the temptation to offer sacrifice and honor to the altar of emaciation, materialism, elitism, drunkenness, crudeness and selfishness. It is unreal what you see when you are out where people spend their money.

Quite pridefully, I did not spend a dime until we got to the makeup counter. Then I looked at all of those pretty colors winking back at me and suddenly I had befriended my newest lipstick, Nectar. It made me feel happy.

While I am aware that Jesus does not care if I am wearing Crystal Pink or Nectar on my lips, it brings me back to one of my idols. I blame it on my upbringing in Texas, where big hair and lipstick are staples, but really it is something that is deep inside of me…vanity.

Enter my nemesis…I have tried to whittle this passage into something manageable for years, 1 Peter 3:3 & 4, “Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight.”

I understand that I should abstain from things polluted by idols, but my heart says to make it more personal than a discussion about meat. I have idols whose tentacles enter into the very woman that I am called to be.

They enter through the cracks of my sort-of-quiet-spirit and create longings inside of me. These idols cater to the desires of my flesh and the pride, manifesting itself in vanity. I no longer want to adorn my inner self, but I want to partner with the people in the department store to adorn myself outwardly…badly. It is so much easier to adorn myself outwardly. It feels good, euphoric. It can trick me into momentary satisfaction.

How to deal with this? I could be hyper-sensitive to all things about adorning myself outwardly. I could create fences and motes of rules that surround my physical appearance so that I do not have to make those decisions. I could make this my fundamental focus.

I hate rules and this seems like a lot of work.

Paul said something that has reformed my thoughts on my struggle, and this entire discussion of idolatry.

I want to do nothing that provokes my Lord to jealousy.

I do not want to share my spirit with cosmetics, or clothes, or attentions. I want for my obedience to be placed in my desire for God, not rules that protect me from His jealousy. I desire that my idols and their tentacles are crushed and that they never share the same space of offering in my heart that is offered to the Lord.

That is what my shopping days have taught me.

Father, thank you for your endless desire to see us free. Let us be satisfied only with you. Give us a quiet spirit as we go though this day.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments mean so much to me. Thank you for taking the time to share what is on your mind.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin