What the Church can Learn from Lupita Nyong’o about Beauty

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The stunning black actress came to the stage to deliver her speech at the Black Women in Hollywood celebration luncheon in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Her name is Lupita Nyong’o.

She began her speech with a letter she received from a young black teenage girl who wrote that she was contemplating buying a skin-whitening cream, for she was ashamed of her dark skin. She then told the actress, “but you appeared on the world map and saved me.”

Lupita continued to say that those words made her heart bleed a little. From this letter, Lupita went on to tell her story about how once, she felt “unbeautiful.” And when she saw only pale-skinned celebrities lighting up the red carpet, her self-hatred grew more immense. Day after day she would wake up every morning disappointed with the same shade of brown skin that she always had.

Her mother told her one day, “You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you.” Lupita realized that beauty wasn’t something she could “acquire or consume is was just something that I had to be…you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you.”

Beauty Told by the World

Everywhere I look, I see photographs, magazines, fashion and social media infested with the idea that beauty is external. That women must conform to one type of beauty. And that single type of beauty is celebrated, recognized and appreciated all over the world. It’s sad that virtue hardly has a place in Red Carpet runways, celebrity marriages and social media.

Your value, your identity and your dating life is dependant on how skinny you are, how many manicures you can afford a month, how on fleek your eyebrows are, and how drop-dead gorgeous your hair is.

Beauty Told by the Church

And while the Church wrinkles and turns up their nose in disgust with the world, they turn around and do the exact same thing. I hear one type of beauty that is being celebrated, appreciated and recognized in the Church, and that is if you all of your beauty is internal.

While internal beauty is imperishable, external beauty, although it is temporary,  is important as well. I think this is where the Church has missed what people like Lupita Nyong’o has to offer: a validation of external beauty, but understanding how important the internal beauty is.

By the Church’s influence on me, I have begun to believe that outward beauty is wrong. That it’s wrong to express my femininity through some eyeliner, mascara and mini skirts.

Meeting in the Middle

Outward beauty should be celebrated, not demonized in the Church.

Internal beauty should be celebrated more in the world, not ignored.

It’s a “both/and” not an “either/or”. Both the world and the Church run to the extremes of this issue, can I suggest we meet in the middle? While the world has a lot to learn about how to raise girls to have internal beauty, the Church has a lot to learn about giving the freedom to girls to express their outward beauty by wearing makeup and beautiful clothes.

We can learn a lot from Lupita Nyong’o and her eloquent speech on beauty. She offers both what the Church and the World have to bring to the table. External beauty. Internal beauty. And somehow, they meet together in harmonious balance.

Lupita ended her speech addressed to the young black woman:

“I hope my presence on your screens and in magazines, leave you, young girl, on a similar journey, that you will feel the validation of your external beauty, but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. In that, there is no shade in that beauty.”

Thanks for reading:)

Kate

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The Myth of Self-Esteem

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I hear it all the time. And I’m sure you do too.

“You are BeYOUtiful.”

“Just be yourself. You do you…cuz haters gonna hate hate hate, but I’m just gonna shake shake shake it off.”

You’re welcome Taylor Swift fans;)

And I am not only seeing this in the world, but also in the Church. Slowly the Church has allowed these self-esteem messages to creep into the circle of conversations.

We love it don’t we? The warm. The fuzzy. The encouragement. The constant compliments that feed our pride.

But when we use these feel-good messages to cover the fact that we are broken, weak and utterly selfish, sinful people, we lose perspective on the beauty of the Cross and the sacrifice that Christ has made for our sins.

We act as if God needs us; that we have value in our successes; that we are beautiful already, but God “polishes us up a bit” as we walk with Him as Christians.

There is nothing that is good or beautiful in us. We are not beautiful or good because we make ourselves so, but because God is in us. In Psalm 16:2, one of my favorite verses states, “O Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.”Our worth and value lies not what we’ve done, but who He is.

So, both teenage gal and guy, you are not defined by your accomplishments, your failures, your physical appearance, your friendships, your skin color, your socioeconomic status. You are defined by the Creator who gave you worth through His loving and ultimate sacrifice.

Self-Esteem is a myth. Why? Because our worth is not found in ourselves, it is found in the beauty of our Father.

We are beautiful, accepted and redeemed because God called through the dark depths of our souls when we were utterly hopeless. Yes, rest in the truth that He loves and has redeemed you, but don’t forget His calling; His Great Comission for something more beautiful than yourself.

But I’m no poet (obviously). I can’t write out or even explain what this song, “What Grace is Mine” by Keith and Kristyn Getty encapsulates. Here, they say it better than I can:)

“What grace is mine that He who dwells in endless light
Called through the night to find my distant soul
And from his scars poured mercy that would plead for me
That I might live and in his name be known

So I will go wherever He is calling me
I lose my life to find my life in Him
I give my all to gain the hope that never dies
I bow my heart, take up my cross and follow Him”