What does Lent mean to me? Yes, it begins on Ash Wednesday with the remembrance of Jesus in the wilderness, and it ends on Easter Sunday with the celebration of his resurrection—but what does it all mean? I've been thinking about this question for a while now, and have finally discovered an answer.
Usually I see Lent as a 40-day diet, a time for me to abstain from sweets with the secret hope it will result in smaller love handles. This year, however, I've been convicted of my ulterior motives. Instead of merely giving something up in hopes of losing weight, I want to give up something that will benefit me spiritually. That's why I won't be wearing makeup this year during Lent.
Every morning I wake up, work out, get ready, put on make-up, eat breakfast, and if I have time, read my Bible and write in my journal. I've focused too much of my time on improving the things that others find value in, including my outward appearance. In the process I've neglected opportunities to improve my character and relationship with Jesus. First Peter 3:3—4 says, "Don't be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God."
Although I don't wear inordinate amounts of makeup, I still feel inadequate without it. In fact, sometimes I put it on before I go running. I've believed the socially constructed idea that the only way people will find me pretty is if I wear makeup, if I cover or hide the flaws. Therefore, when I don't wear it I worry what others will think, and am afraid that they won't approve of the real me: Her complexion is uneven; her eyes look tired; she's ugly. I hide behind a mask, finding security in covering the parts I don't like and emphasizing the parts I do. Goodbye blemishes, hello eyes! But I'm tired of never feeling good enough, and never feeling pretty unless I wear makeup.
"What makes me feel like I'm not enough?" my roommate asked the other night at dinner as we discussed Lent. Moments later she said, "Society tells me every day that I'm not enough. That I don't have enough. Wearing makeup tells me that my God-given face isn't enough." Like me, and I'm sure other women too, my roommate's self-esteem was contingent on how others saw her. Inadequate. Not enough.
Those words haunted me. When I'm in my apartment alone I don't wear makeup, and I love it. I'm not sitting there thinking, I wonder what people will think of me—because no one is there! It's when I leave that I have this urge to make myself look presentable. It's when I start comparing myself to others that I feel like I'm not enough, incomplete, inadequate.
The discussion with my roommate became a catalyst for me to try to change that feeling. The best way for me to start? Give up makeup for Lent. So for the next six weeks, I want to focus my self-worth in the one who created me just the way I am—all-natural and makeup free. My prayer is that by learning to love and accept myself the way God does, it will also transform the way I view others. Because I've become insecure in how I look, I sometimes judge others because of the way they look: she wears too much makeup, she should wear more, and the list goes on.
Making myself feel prettier at the expense of others becomes a self-indulgent cycle. However, Jesus said, "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged" (Matthew 7:1).
I judge others because I'm afraid they're judging me. But I want the next 40 days to be different.
I want to use the time I save from not putting on makeup in the morning to pray through the fruit of the Spirit. My hope is that praying for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will help me see others (and myself) as beautiful, image bearers of God.
So what does Lent mean for me? It means finding myself beautiful, inside and out. It's about finding my worth in God, not in everyone else. It's about loving others the way God does.
Other women are taking The Challenge and experiencing the transformative power of going "naked." Will you join us?
Abbey Woodfin is Today's Christian Woman's editorial intern. Follow her on Twitter @abbeywoodfin.
Also read about Constance Rhodes's month-long makeup-free experience in TCW article "A Month Without Makeup."