Unfading Beauty

Spending a weekend on a retreat with a few hundred middle school kids can make you feel either really young or really old (or both, depending on the time of day!).

Honestly, I felt young, energized and happy to have the opportunity to spend quality time with my small group of seventh grade girls. These camp times are often a great way to deepen connection, with each other and God, and I was thankful to see that happening.

Our retreat was called “The Real Me.” The teaching was centered on finding our identity in Christ, not circumstances, what we do, or the world’s standards. The kids listened carefully as the youth ministers told stories of their own struggle to belong, fit in, and feel value.  This topic resonated because the quest for identity and security is real for everyone and it cuts deep to the core of where we often find our hope.

I have been involved in various youth ministries for over twenty years now. I feel like I’m in my element when I’m surrounded by teens. I forget that I’m middle aged and I can let my goofy side shine, while leading them towards Jesus.

On the bus ride home, I was telling stories about some of my strange and hilarious dating experiences in the past. Everyone was laughing when a girl seated nearby asked, “So, were you attractive, or something, when you were younger? I mean, how did you have so many dates?” Of course, the question caught me off guard and I shrugged it off. But the ringing implication left a mark.

That evening, when I was recounting the weekend with my husband, I told him about that comment and was surprised by my tears.  I became aware of how disorienting it feels to be seen as old and unattractive. In that moment, I believed I was irrelevant and it was shocking. For a woman, beauty is strongly connected to identity. I felt the sting of passing time and fading beauty.

“How quickly a few words from a child had power over my heart. I found myself believing a lie attached to my worth.”

Ironically, I had just spent the weekend talking to my small group of girls about not finding their worth in what others think about them.  I shared my personal story of how God rescued me years earlier from chasing fame and empty affirmation.  We talked about our temporary lives and living in light of eternity. It was all good stuff, until I was slammed with my own fragility.

In processing my jumbled feelings, thankfully, I was quickly brought back to Truth, and that is where I must always go when insecurity crashes down.

The Truth is that God is way bigger than all of my fears. He sees me as beautiful, despite the weathering of time. His love for me isn’t dependent on what I do, how I look, or where I’m known. He has called me to something bigger than myself. He has a good plan for me and will see it completed. Nothing could make me feel more secure, loved and precious than that.

As a woman, He has uniquely called me to love others with an unfading beauty that is precious to Him.

When I invite someone into authentic community, that is beautiful.

When I nurture younger women, loving them and teaching them truth, that is beautiful. 

When I partner with others to lead people towards Truth, that is beautiful.

“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.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Does your worth come from your beauty and the attention you attract because of it? Does your struggle to feel beautiful keep you from your calling as an Ezer?

-Kristi Carden, Pelham