“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.” —St. Augustine of Hippo, in Confessions
It was too late for a lot of things by the time I realized beauty was my god.
Too late to avoid the pain and self-hatred of an eating disorder. Too late to skip the part where I hurt my family by the choices I made.
When I was 17, I got caught up with this guy who was charming and handsome—someone who loved the ladies and they loved him back. We started dating and I got way too serious way too fast, before getting to know him well enough.
My world fell apart during that relationship. He told me his ex-girlfriends were far prettier than I was, that he was having a hard time falling in love with me and that my face was crooked. I should have dropped him immediately, but I fought for him to stay.
I lost weight. My skirts got shorter and shorter, my shirts lower and tighter.
Though still a Christian in name, I boxed God into a small, dark corner of my life.
You see, I had always been looking for a way to control my world—to feel safe, to be loved. I’d always wanted to be beautiful, because I saw how the beautiful girls got the attention of the boys I liked, how it seemed like the world was handed to them on a platter. Long ago, I’d fallen in love with the idea of being one of them.
And there’s nothing wrong with being beautiful. The problem was this:
I thought beauty could save me.
I thought beauty would bring order to my world, make me worthy of love and protect me from rejection. I put beauty in the place that only God is meant to have in our lives. I worshiped it.
You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol… (Exodus 20:3-4)
I always knew idolatry (worshiping something other than God) was wrong, but I didn’t realize I was doing it.
In our culture, we don’t typically bow down to golden statues, but we do bow down to much more subtle gods—the gods of success, acceptance, money, beauty and even Christian ministry.
When I turned to beauty as my savior, it broke me. Cycles of eating disorders swallowed me whole. I obsessed over the numbers on the scale and the size of my jeans.
Even when I got skinny like I had dreamed of…even when guys stopped and asked for my number…even when I felt powerful…never once did I feel happy. No, I felt totally empty.
When beauty became my god, I became its slave. And only Jesus could break those chains.
That was all 10 years ago. It’s been a long, slow process to dethrone that god, but today, my life looks very different. For the most part, I am free.
Since getting married two years ago, I’ve gained 10 pounds and gone up a pants size—and it’s okay. I’m actually healthier than I’ve ever been in my life because I’m working out and eating regular, healthy meals.
I don’t have to wear makeup every day or blow-dry my hair before going to the gym. I feel confident after a sweaty workout with tousled hair, and I feel confident when I take the time to look good. Why? Because now my confidence is in God—for the most part, anyway; I’m still a work in progress.
And here’s the most beautiful part: It’s never too late for God to redeem our pain. Every ounce of pain I went through because of my idolatry? He has redeemed it all. He has recycled my struggles because He now uses them to help others.
I still love beautiful things, from sunsets and oceans to makeup and shoes. But I no longer worship beauty.
Instead, I worship the most Beautiful One I’ve ever known.
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4)
If you, too, have made beauty your god, the only way to find freedom is to allow God to step out of the box you’ve put Him in, and become Lord of your whole, entire life. It’s a slow (and painful) process, but let me tell you: It’s totally worth it.