I don’t wear make-up. Many people assume I don’t wear make-up for some spiritual reason. “Beauty is vain and charm is deceitful” after all. Since I am a pastor’s wife, it is sometimes assumed that I’m just holy like that.
I even color my hair. *gasp!* I just think I’m too young and my kids are too young for me to parade around with a “crown of glory” (i.e. gray hair) just yet. But I’ve known women who stopped wearing make-up in imitation of me. Or asked me to talk to their daughters about why we shouldn’t make use of cosmetics. Imagine their surprise when I reveal that my motive for bare skin is laziness and vanity.
That’s right. I don’t wear make-up because I’m lazy and vain.
I am simply too tired at the end of most of my days and I won’t wash my face at night. Then my skin breaks out, and I am vain enough to choose undressed skin that is relatively free from blemishes over the polish of make-up.
Putting on make-up takes time. I can’t even pretend that I am “putting God first” over “putting my face on.” I’d rather sleep, check in on Facebook or Twitter, and get a head start on my to-do list for the day (or at least reassign due dates – lol) than take the time to put on makeup. No, my reasons for not wearing make-up are plain and simple: I am lazy. I want other things more.
The thing is, I often make decisions like this for purely practical reasons. We all do. Then after the fact, I am tempted to sort of re-write history and make it a spiritual thing. I become self-righteous and may even start imposing my practice on others in the name of “holiness.”
There was a time when I acted as if orderliness was next to godliness. It took years (and I think this is why God gave us so many children) for me to realize that order was my god. It took years for me to realize I was handcuffing others to my form of “holiness.”
You see, I was pretty messy and unorganized as a child. That might be an understatement. A family counselor actually advised my parents to just shut the door to my room and ignore it as long as nothing spilled out into the hallway. Then, at college, my roommate and I could almost roll out of bed onto the laundry pile without a change in elevation.
At some point I clicked into an alter ego of organization and efficiency. I have my theories about this transformation and none of them involve yielding to the Holy Spirit. No, I was grasping for control and organizing my world let me pretend I had some.
Sometime later I began to rest in God’s control and to yield to the prompting of his Spirit, and being organized and efficient started to take on a righteous hue. That’s when I started to re-write history and think that my organization was evidence of God’s work in my life. That’s when I became self-righteous and judgmental. And that is dangerous ground. My judgmental attitude hurt more than one person on my road to grace.
But God brought child after child into my heart and home. And with children came chaos. And with chaos came humbling. Not, an I-see-the-error-of-my-ways kind of humility, but an I-have-no-control-I-am-an-unrighteous-hypocrite-God-help-me kind of humbling. And I needed that. I still do. It was God’s grace to me to bring me to a point of despairing of my own control. I needed to recognize and repent of self-righteousness.
The truth is, I have a lot I can share about organization and efficiency, but void of grace, it is binding rather than freeing. The same way making hard and fast extra-biblical rules about make-up is like fastening manacles on the hearts of others. And we do it with any number of good things: wearing modest clothing, consuming alcohol, choosing food, establishing quiet times, observing the sabbath, educating our children, disciplining our children, choosing a version of the Bible… the list could go on forever.
Biblical wisdom is skill at living. It starts with having the truths of scripture penetrate your heart in such a way that the direction (and directing) of your heart is changed. James 3 says,
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
I still struggle with recognizing that much of my expectations for myself and others comes from selfish ambition. The ability to see the moment when wanting a tidy house changes from a desire to bless others to a desire to serve myself is wisdom. I can repent of that shift in my heart, before the vile practice of fury sets in. If I miss it, I can repent of the fury, too. (And often have to.)
I long for my kids to have rich relationships with each other, but sometimes I just want them to “be nice” on the outside regardless of how “not nice” they are on the inside to make my day easier. That is selfish ambition – it is not wise.
James 3 goes on,
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
I love the way that passage ends – with such a beautiful picture of a wise life. It gives me hope. It stands in stark contrast to insisting others act the way I act and choose the way I choose. It turns my selfish ambition on its head and offers peace.