I had the privilege of speaking at such a beautiful event this last weekend. Our women’s ministries of Oregon City Evangelical Church hosted a special brunch and fashion show for Mother’s Day called “Beautiful & Free”…celebrating the intrinsic beauty in every girl and every woman. We held the event at a local middle school and invited the community and about 140 women and girls were in attendance. Every guest was given a Justice Doll and we showed this video to explain the dolls, which were custom-created just for our event.
I’m excited to share photos from the event, as soon as they come in from our photographers. In the meantime, several people have asked if my talk was recorded or if they could get a written copy of my message. To my knowledge, it was not recorded, but I’m reprinting the transcript of my message here for anyone who’s interested. (I followed it up with a short video called Perfect Love, which I’m unable to link to here.) I thank God for giving me just the words he wanted to communicate to each gal there, and I’m so grateful for the power of the Holy Spirit to touch hearts and lives far beyond what I could ever do on my own.
Beautiful & Free – Courtney Goodwin – Oregon City Evangelical Church
So, getting ready to speak onstage at an event about beauty, in front of all you lovely ladies, can be a bit intimidating. Imagine the pressure to look just right for all of you! So, I decided to count up how many things I did or things I applied to my body to get ready to come here today. I am going to be completely honest about my “beauty regime” for the day.
- Hair cut
- Hair colored
- Painted toenails
- Plucked eyebrows (ouch!)
- Deodorant (we are all thankful I remembered this one)
- Body lotion
- Hair Cream
- Hair spray
- New outfit
- New shoes (obviously!)
That’s 23 things I did to get ready today. Now there are a few more thing I considered doing, but didn’t for lack of time, money, or just decided they were unnecessary. But, they definitely crossed my mind:
- False eyelashes
- New jewelry
- New underwear
- Spray tan
- New purse
So, do these 23 things make me beautiful? Or, maybe I’m almost there with 23, but 30 would have really sealed the deal. Or perhaps even 30 wouldn’t have been enough? How do I know? And who gets to decide? Who defines beauty?
In 2004, Dove commissioned an independent scientific study on how women define and relate to beauty. They surveyed 3,200 women across ten different countries, and the results were fascinating. Among other things, the study showed that if we were to survey THIS room, the vast majority of us would not label ourselves “beautiful”. Possibly as “average” or “natural” but not “beautiful”. It also showed a great disconnect between the way our culture and media define beauty, and what we as women think beauty should be about. We believe beauty is about more than physical attractiveness, but we disagree on how exactly it is defined.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. In other words, it’s up to the viewer to be the judge. It’s subjective and defined differently by different people at different times.
So, who gets to define beauty for you? Is it you, when you look in the mirror? Is it me, when I look at you? Is it that boy you want to date or are dating? Is it your husband? Is it your mom or dad? Is it magazine editors? TV Producers? Actors? Michael Kors or the House of Versace? Plastic surgeons? The adult entertainment industry? That mean girl? (You know the one.) Sephora?
Most all of these sources have one thing in common: they define beauty as something that is only skin-deep. What’s more, they define beauty as simply a commodity that can be bought and sold. And our culture can be awfully hard on us girls, can’t it? The kinds of standards they set for beauty are extremely rigorous, expensive, and we’ve let them hold power over us for too long. You see, true beauty is not for sale. I believe that our culture’s standards for beauty have actually become chains, holding us captive to false, oxygen-draining ideals. Beauty in bondage isn’t beauty at all.
Our culture has made beauty a skin-deep concept, but God sees it as something so much more. True beauty can be seen in freedom. Freedom to be me. Freedom to live to my fullest potential. Freedom from the bonds of others’ expectations…my insecurities…others’ plans for my life. True freedom is when I embrace the beauty of all God made me to be and live in that place. When we embrace who we are and give ourselves grace…quiet the voices in our heads that tell us we’re not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough…it sets us free and people notice! We actually become very attractive to others when we take joy in who we were made to be! So, beautiful and free go hand in hand. Trying to have one without the other is incomplete.
The same study that Dove commissioned also asked women what made them feel beautiful. Things like makeup & cosmetics were at the very bottom of the list. At the top of the list? Being loved.
Interesting. Being loved is the number one thing that actually makes us feel beautiful. If that’s the case, boy do I have good news for you today. You are so very, very loved. As I was preparing to give this message today, I had a lot of questions for God. I asked Him to help me to see myself and my own daughters the same way that He sees me. Here are some of the answers I found in the Bible – just some of the ways God views you and me, his daughters:
Made in His image (Gen. 1:27)
Fearfully, wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
Marvelously complex (Ps. 139:14)
Chosen (Eph. 1:4)
Of great worth (I Peter 3:4)
Delightful (Zeph. 3:17)
Beautiful & flawless (Song of Solomon 4:7)
He rejoices over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17)
Deeply loved (John 3:16)
Worth dying for (John 3:16)
Wow! Does this change anything for you?
Perhaps you still have questions, like I did. So I asked him,
- Do your eyes get teary when we are hurting or when we make you proud?
- Do you delight in watching us as we lose ourselves in something fun?
- Do you see us being creative and say, “That’s MY girl!”?
- Do you long to be close to us?
- Do you ever create something that you think is ugly?
- Do you ever make mistakes?
- Does your plan for women include them being perceived as “less than”?
- Is it your plan for women to be bought and sold?
- Did you create women to be cruelly dominated by men?
- Do you want us to all be carbon copies of one another?
- Does the Creator of the universe get to define true beauty, or do we?
- If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then HOW DO YOU SEE ME?
I have to say, the words he gave me to write down answered all my questions. Here’s what I heard in response, and I believe he has this to say to YOU today:
I have loved you with an everlasting love. You are the apple of my eye. I love to do little things to make your eyes light up, to make you smile. I don’t concern myself with what you’ve earned or what you deserve. I just like to surprise you with good things because it delights me to see your face light up. I’m always hoping you’ll realize it came from me.
It’s thrilling for me when I see you stepping out and doing something you’re good at…something I created you to be good at. I feel a wave of pride when I see you stepping bravely into something you want to get better at. And – oh, this really thrills me – I get most excited when I see you acting like me. It’s as if my whole plan for you comes together in a moment like that. When you choose kindness, it makes my heart beat a little faster, because you remind me of ME! I made you in my image, but you still get to choose how you behave. I love it when you choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control.
One thing you need to know: I did not create you to be a commodity that gets used up by others. If that’s happened to you, I need you to know that it broke my heart and made me really angry. At this very moment, I’m planning justice on your behalf. I never created my daughters to be in bondage of any kind. I created my daughters to be beautiful and free. I want you to know how passionate I am about you. I want you to know that whatever prison you find yourself in today, I can set you free. I won’t stop. I will never give up. I will do whatever it takes to let you know that I love you with a perfect love. You, my beloved, are the apple of my eye. I want you to be free!