It wasn’t so much the number of them milling about that struck me, but rather their appearances. Hair blown out perfectly, the latest bangles on their wrists clacked as they reached up with one hand to smooth the bangs across their foreheads for the umpteenth time while using their other hand to fiddle with their cell phones. Hidden by overly made-up faces, their bodies’ gaits and nervous gestures belied their real ages.
After all, preteens and varying degrees of awkwardness go hand-in-hand.
I found myself thinking back to my awkward years, when I was growing into my body (yes, that is “years” with an “s”). I remember being gangly, but I don’t remember an overwhelming pressure to wear the right clothes (I have the photos to prove it) or being conscious of what those around me were thinking of my appearance.
Fast-forward to today and society’s emphasis on external beauty—the pressure on young women to have the latest fashions and accessories and to look far older than they really are. It’s no wonder young women struggle with body image and self-esteem issues. They’re stuck between their childhoods and adulthood.
I silently thanked God for allowing me to grow up at a time when the pressure to be the most beautiful was less. Maybe it wasn’t really ever less. Maybe God focused my attention on other things like, oh, say books and sports. Either way, thanks, God.
Later that same day, I was reminded of those young women as I read through I Peter 3. Verses 3 and 4 read:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
How difficult this is to grasp in today’s world! So many young women are caught up with what’s happening on the outside that they forget that it’s what is on the inside that counts. It’s easy to forget that God looks at your heart when everyone else is looking at your outsides.
But it’s hard to forget what it feels like to wonder if anyone really cares about you for what’s inside of you. Multiply that by hundreds of thousands, and you get the number of young women who feel the same exact way. Pressured to have the latest fashions. Pressured to fit in. Each one hoping to be noticed and labeled as “cool.”
If only they knew that Jesus notices them. And not just notices them, but loves them. He thinks they’re pretty cool. Just the way they are. Inside and out. New clothes, old clothes, fashionably hip, no fashion sense.
Turns out Jesus isn’t all that into fashion. He’s into hearts.