It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Standard Publishing (July 1, 2009)
***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel of The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc.for sending me a review copy.***
Mark Atteberry has been a minister since 1975, serving at Poinciana Christian Church in Kissimmee, Florida, since 1989. He’s been married to his high school sweetheart, Marilyn, for 32 years. Mark is the author of six books including Free Refill, The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, Walking with God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel (a Retailers’ Choice Award finalist), The Caleb Quest, and The Samson Syndrome(chosen as a Bible study tool by many NFL teams, including the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Dolphins and used as team Bible study by both 2007 Super Bowl participants, the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, during their championship seasons). His books have been endorsed by Karen Kingsbury, Donald Miller, Randy Alcorn, John Maxwell, Barbara Johnson, Angela Thomas, Pat Williams, Steve Green, and others.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Standard Publishing (July 1, 2009)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
who make me so much more than happy.
Gene Fowler said, “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”1 A little melodramatic perhaps. On the other hand, there are days when he doesn’t seem that far off base. Because writing is so hard, you need people in your life who make it easier. I am blessed to have a lot of them. Here are a few I would be ashamed not to mention.
Marilyn, my wife, who helps me in so many ways, I couldn’t begin to enumerate them. As the business aspect of my life accelerates, she keeps me organized and pointed in the right direction without ever letting any of it get in the way of our romance.
Lee Hough, my agent, who represents me with integrity and class. Long ago we moved beyond being author and agent and just became friends. We spend as much time laughing, telling stories, and sharing prayer requests as we do talking about my book projects.
Dr. Les Hardin, my friend and “Bible scholar of choice” when I need some deeper insights into a difficult passage of Scripture. He’s forgotten more about the Bible than I will ever know.
Dale Reeves, Lindsay Black, Sarah Felkey, and Lynn Pratt, my friends at Standard Publishing, who are true professionals in every sense of the word . . . and fun too. They somehow plucked a concept out of my head and turned it into something you can hold in your hands.
Diane Stortz, my editor, who blew me away with her keen insights. She understood what I was aiming at in this book and helped me zero in on the target.
Kelsey Kingsbury (yes, that Kingsbury), who wrote the foreword. Kelsey is a beautiful young woman who epitomizes the message of this book. I am so honored that her first published words are in my book. I doubt they’ll be her last.
Karen Kingsbury, a dear friend who gets the credit (or the blame) for my being a published author.
And you, my readers, who always inspire me with your kind e-mails.
I grew up always performing. As a little girl I would gracefully dance across our living room floor while loudly singing a beautiful song to Jesus. I really believed that I would grow up to become a beautiful princess, meet my perfect and handsome prince, and we would live happily ever after. And I still do. The Bible says, “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). My parents gave this verse to me when I was a little girl, and I still cling to the powerful message it holds. God truly has an amazing plan for my future handsome prince and me as long as I keep my eyes toward him.
When I was a freshman in high school, I made the cheerleading team, along with all of my very best friends. I soon realized that others around me considered cheerleaders as uneducated and simply sexy. But I desired to be an example of how a cheerleader—or any woman—really can be so much more than sexy.
Being female isn’t easy. Getting ready in the morning can be a huge battle, and ladies, you know exactly what I am talking about! First we take a shower, then we attempt to blow-dry and style our hair, and last but not least is putting on makeup and choosing an outfit—and don’t forget, we need to complete this mission in warp time. The time it takes a guy to get ready is no time at all (and trust me, I have five brothers!).
Women face a lot of pressure to look a certain way. We live in a celebrity-obsessed world, and we tend to look up to the stick-thin models we read about in gossip magazines. This unhealthy way of thinking is completely damaging to us personally and, in the end, to our society. I have gone through the many ups and downs of being a young woman. I’ve had guy problems, makeup problems, days when I felt fat, clothes problems, cravings for material things, and all of these incidents have left me feeling empty and never good enough.
Mark Atteberry’s book explains the importance of beauty coming not only from the outside but most significantly from inside, from our hearts. (My dad has always called me his precious princess, and I think all Christian women should look at themselves as God’s princesses.) While reading this book, I found that every chapter delivers an amazing truth I needed to hear. The way Mark breaks down these everyday issues of always trying to be sexy is brilliant. He gives us an inside look at a guy’s brain and promises us that there are real godly guys holding out for you and me. This book is a great reminder for all women to always hold a high standard for ourselves when dealing with men, dating, marriage, and especially our self-image. God made us in his perfect image; let’s cling to that truth. Whatever our age, we are so much more than sexy!
In God’s love,
daughter of #1 inspirational fiction author Karen Kingsbury
“All men think about is sex!”
You’ve heard it a thousand times.
If you’re a woman, you’ve probably said it a thousand times.
But I’m here to tell you it isn’t true. My purpose in this book is to slide a stick of dynamite under this long-held misconception and light the fuse. I think it’s high time to explode this lie and let you in on a dynamic, life-changing secret: millions of men in this world are looking for so much more than sex.
Oh, I can understand why you wouldn’t think so. Sadly, there are just enough classless, immature men out there to make it seem true, and pop culture constantly portrays men in the tawdriest terms possible. In the movie Bruce Almighty, for example, Jim Carrey plays an ordinary guy who gets to possess all the powers of God. And what does he do? Wipe out poverty? Put an end to oppression? Bring peace to the Middle East? Of course not! Instead, he sends a perfectly timed gust of wind so he can get a peek under a pretty girl’s skirt. Then with the snickering glee of a hormone-crazed teenager, he has the brilliant idea of making his wife’s breasts larger.
Tacky, you say?
Of course, but what do you expect? He’s a guy!
Or maybe you remember the beer ad that shows two guys sitting in a crowded bar, dreaming up the perfect Miller Lite commercial. Their naughty little minds conjure up a couple of gorgeous women who start arguing about whether the beer is better tasting or less filling. Before you can say bimbo, the two women are pulling hair, ripping clothes, and tumbling nearly naked into a public fountain. As the scene fades, our typical males are shown back in the bar, nodding in hearty approval, hefting their brewskies, and pronouncing their fantasy a true work of art.
Oh yes, I can understand why you would think that sex is all men care about. But speaking as a man—and one who’s met and talked to thousands of other men across the country—I’m convinced there’s a lie being perpetrated here. I believe that Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), has three reasons for working overtime to hoodwink you.
First, he wants to sow seeds of disrespect toward men in the hearts of women of all ages. God has given men great leadership responsibilities in the home, the church, and the world. Therefore, anything Satan can do to make it harder for women and girls to respect men strikes a mighty blow against God’s plan.
Satan also wants to sow seeds of sensuality in our culture. If he can convince you—especially when you’re young—that sex is all men care about, it’s inevitable that talking, acting, and dressing provocatively will seem the thing to do. And I can’t think of a word that better describes our culture than provocative. Bare midriffs, plunging necklines, and low-riding, skin-tight jeans are the order of the day. Even preteen girls dress (and sometimes act) like the pop culture divas they idolize.
Third, Satan wants to sow seeds of hopelessness in marriages. Every time a clueless husband is preoccupied, inattentive, or rude all day long and then suddenly morphs into Prince Charming when he crawls under the covers, he unwittingly reinforces the man-as-insensitive-sex-maniac stereotype that culture has already planted in his wife’s mind. She may give in to his advances, but it will likely be with a halfhearted, let’s-just-hurry-up-and-get-it-over-with attitude. Pile enough of those heartless, robotic exercises on top of each other, and any woman would feel empty and hopeless.
When I started writing books several years ago, I never dreamed I’d write one for women. I’m not into Bath & Body Works, HGTV, or any of the other girlie things I see my wife and daughter enjoying. To be honest, I don’t even pretend to understand women. After being married for more than thirty years, raising a daughter, and being a pastor to thousands of women, I still find them infinitely and wonderfully mysterious. I wholeheartedly agree with author Angela Thomas, who writes, “The woman is a mystery that the man can’t unlock. Her desires seem to him like a moving target.”2
But that doesn’t mean I’m blind.
As a pastor I’ve been observing this devilish lie about men and watching it undermine God’s plan for male-female relationships for a long, long time. I’ve finally come to the place where I have to speak up.
In this book I’m going to challenge you to reconsider some things you may have always believed about men and the best way to interact with them. No, I’m not going to try to sell you on the notion that all men are gentlemen. Clearly, many are not. But I do know without a doubt that there are still a lot of us left who can see beyond the swell of a woman’s breast.
Imagine how this new understanding could profoundly change your life.
For one thing, it would take some pressure off. It would allow you to be more real, to concentrate more on the development of your inner qualities rather than always thinking you have to compete with the pretty blonde in the deep V-neck who works in your boyfriend’s or husband’s office. For another, your relationship with your man could be invigorated if, instead of trying to breathe new life into your wheezing relationship with skimpy outfits and the latest perfumes, you started to build some new, more meaningful bridges from your heart to his.
If you’re skeptical, I’m not surprised. I know that many women have experienced the very worst that testosterone has to offer. If you’ve pretty much lost all respect for men and are thinking this book is a monumental waste of paper, I plead with you to keep an open mind.
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being sexy. (Actually, I’m very much in favor of it!) I’m just saying that many women aim too low . . . that there’s something much higher and much more wonderful for you to shoot for.
Something millions of guys would give anything to find.
Something so much more than sexy.
The Myths in the Mirror
Tracy, I’m in love with you, no matter what you weigh.
—Link Larkin in Hairspray
I wouldn’t want to be a woman.
I wouldn’t be able to take the pressure to always look beautiful. A guy can have a paunch, wrinkles, thinning hair, gray hair, or even no hair, and still be cast as the romantic lead in a Hollywood blockbuster, but any woman with the same physical traits will end up playing the senile grandma with an afghan over her lap, spitting out saucy one-liners between slobbers.
And this foolishness all starts at birth.
Just listen to those proud relatives pressing their noses up against the hospital nursery window. If the baby is wrapped in a pink blanket, they’ll call her beautiful, gorgeous, a little doll, or a real heartbreaker one of these days. But if the baby’s wrapped in blue, they’ll likely predict a college scholarship for the little linebacker. I have no doubt that if you wrapped the girl baby in blue and the boy baby in pink, you’d get the same color-coded comments.
And the pressure builds from there.
It isn’t long before a little girl becomes enamored with the Disney princesses, all beautifully and flawlessly rendered, and ends up shrieking with delight when her parents give her princess paraphernalia for Christmas. You can bet that even before the wrapping paper is carted away, she’ll be stylin’—click-clacking through the house in her plastic high heels and sparkly dress, soaking up oohs and aahs from everyone except her bratty little brother, who’s too busy blowing things up on his new computer game to notice.
Then of course, there’s high school, where so much of the popularity pecking order is based on looks. It’s the pretty girls who are the best bets to be cheerleaders, homecoming queens, and Saturday-night dates for quarterbacks and cleanup hitters.
And don’t even get me started on the many doodads women use on a daily basis to ready themselves for public scrutiny. We guys only need five things in our bathrooms: a comb, a razor, a toothbrush, some toilet paper, and the sports page. We can knock off our whiskers with a dull razor, run a comb through our hair (even this is optional nowadays), brush our teeth, and we’re good to go. Ten minutes tops. But you are expected to address the cosmetic needs of every feature, from head to toe.
The hair has to be perfectly mussed.
The eyebrows have to be plucked or waxed.
The eyes themselves have to be lined and shadowed.
The nose has to be powdered so it won’t shine.
The lips have to be glossed so they will.
The ears have to have the proper bangle (or two or three) dangling from them.
The bra has to perform miracles.
The outfit has to coordinate.
And the shoes have to be cute or sexy. (It doesn’t matter if they cause excruciating pain, just so they’re cute or sexy.)
Finally, there’s the weight issue. It’s much easier to be a little overweight if you’re a guy. Among other things, you’ll be called strapping instead of fat (I don’t know what strapping means, but it definitely sounds better than fat), you’ll get to hit cleanup on the softball team, and no one will dare pick a fight with you—because heavy guys are assumed to be tough, whether they are or not.
But if you’re what the fashion mags call curvy or plus size, the pressure’s on . . . to buy a ThighMaster, to eat like a rabbit, to actually use your ThighMaster, to eat like a rabbit, to walk twenty miles a day, to eat like a rabbit, to sweat to the oldies, and to eat like a rabbit. If you fail to do these things with the fervor of an Olympic athlete in training, or—Heaven forbid—if you’re ever seen eating a doughnut in public, someone (probably a woman who’s never had a weight problem) will comment on how sad it is that you’ve given up or let yourself go.
Somebody, somewhere dubbed women the fair sex. I think maybe the unfair sex would be more appropriate because of the outrageous pressure you are under to live up to culture’s current definition of beauty. I say “current definition” because the standard constantly changes.
The very first Miss America, sixteen-year-old Margaret Gorman, won her crown in 1921. I assume men back then considered Margaret to be a babe, yet any man looking at her picture today would have a hard time controlling snickers.
In the 1950s, all eyes were on a voluptuous Marilyn Monroe. Ten years later, all the magazine covers featured ninety-five-pound Twiggy. Fifty-year-old women were once considered way over the hill, but now women such as Michelle Pfeiffer, Oprah Winfrey, and Lauren Hutton—all over fifty—epitomize beauty, grace, and style. In fact, in 2005 Big magazine invited Lauren Hutton, at the age of sixty-one, to appear in its pages nude, something that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier.
No one can predict how beauty will be defined by our culture ten or twenty years from now. Who knows? Shaved heads might be the hot new trend. Absolutely nothing will surprise me. The only thing I’ll bet on is that whatever culture is demanding, women will still feel pressure to try and deliver it.
[A head] Mirror Myths
Lest you misunderstand, let me say emphatically that I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with a woman wanting to look and feel attractive. In the musical West Side Story, Maria sings with exuberance about how pretty she feels. It’s a joyous, refreshingly innocent moment in the story. There’s no haughtiness. No panting sexuality. Just a young woman experiencing what every woman seems to long for. “I truly believe that the longing to be known as beautiful is part of our design as women,” Angela Thomas writes. “God put us together this way on purpose. We are wired to long for beauty and to be known as beautiful.”3 Nothing in my experience with women would lead me to disagree.
And yet . . . I know that what you believe when you look in the mirror can be a myth. In fact, there are three spiritually and emotionally debilitating mirror myths I’d like to explode right now.
[B head] Myth #1: What You See Is What You Are
Wicked Queen Jezebel knew her days as the matriarch of Israel were numbered (2 Kings 9). Her idiot husband, Ahab, was dead, and God had chosen a young man named Jehu to replace her son Joram as king. And not only had God chosen Jehu to be king, he instructed Jehu to wipe out Jezebel and her entire family as punishment for their many sins.
Jezebel knew that Jehu and his men were coming. They had killed her sons and she was next. So what did she do? Run for her life? Assemble her bodyguards and batten down the hatches? Drink the Kool-Aid? No. “She painted her eyelids and fixed her hair and sat at a window” (v. 30).
Interesting, don’t you think?
Did she get herself all dolled up in an effort to seduce Jehu and perhaps change his mind about killing her? Possibly, but I doubt it. More likely she simply thought, If I’m going out, I’m going to go out looking good! And keep in mind, she was the queen. She would have owned the finest garments and the most expensive jewels. When she put the finishing touches on her do and pirouetted in front of the mirror, I’m sure she was pleased with what she saw.
But she was still a hag, and everybody knew it.
A beautiful face or body doesn’t make you a beautiful person, because your character is always going to trump your looks. Think about Britney Spears, once considered one of the hottest-looking females in America. There was even a TV commercial that showed a geeky, fast-food burger flipper allowing his burgers to burst into flames while he stared, open mouthed, at an overhead TV monitor where a scantily clad Britney was bumping and grinding like a cheap stripper.
But that was before her life began to unravel.
Britney’s foolish choices and reckless—even brainless—behavior made her a national joke. Her endorsement contracts and public appearances dried up, not because she suddenly became physically ugly, but because her character trumped her looks.
Have you ever wondered why many of the most beautiful Hollywood actors and actresses can’t stay married? You’d think if a guy was fortunate enough to marry a glamorous woman with centerfold looks . . . or if a woman snagged a hunky athlete or matinee idol, they’d never want to let go. Yet many such marriages last only a year or two and often end with much bitterness and hateful mudslinging.
Once again, character trumps looks. The person hasn’t been born who is gorgeous enough to overcome a corrupt heart.
Mark it down: what you see when you look in a mirror is not what you are. What’s in your heart is what you are. That’s why wise King Solomon did not say, “Above all else, make sure your eyeliner isn’t smudged and there’s no lipstick on your teeth.” Instead, he said, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23).
[B head] Myth #2: What You See Is What Others See
Check out these words from plastic surgeon Michelle Copeland. I found them right at the beginning of chapter 1 of her book Change Your Looks, Change Your Life:
Take a long, honest look in the mirror. You can do it for real (turn on that harsh overhead light and peel off some clothing), but my bet is that you’ve done it often enough to know what it is about your body or face that you’d like to change.
What is it, for you? Maybe you’ve caught sight of that wattle that blurs your chin line (or worse, that hangs over your crisp white collar) too many times. Maybe it’s the crow’s-feet that grab makeup and make a spray of fright lines at the corners of your eyes. Maybe it’s your nose or earlobes, both of which sag as we age. Maybe it’s your “Hi Janes” (the fleshy underside of the arm that continues to wiggle after you’ve stopped waving hello to your friend Jane); do they make you avoid wearing your favorite sleeveless blouse or halter top? Maybe it’s your breasts—how far down has gravity pulled them? Maybe it’s your stomach—are you willing to expose your midriff? . . . Maybe it’s your hips: Is there no A-line skirt out there that can hide hips that bear witness to every Krispy Kreme you’ve wolfed down? Maybe it’s those pesky spider veins, crisscrossing the backs of your legs like road maps of the East Coast. I could go on and on. . . .
That’s the bad news. But we’re positive thinkers here, and we’re going to leave harsh reality behind. Instead, let’s conjure that wonderful phrase again: “What if?”4
This does indeed seem to be how many of you look at yourselves. You ignore the big picture (which can be very attractive) and become obsessed with the details (which are never ever going to be perfect). I’ve listened to many beautiful women put themselves down because of this or that flaw. Sometimes I’ve stared and thought, Huh? What are you talking about? I literally could not see what they believed to be so obvious.
I once heard a young woman talking about how fat she was and how she needed to go on a diet. I asked her how much she weighed (yes, she was a good friend or I wouldn’t have dared), and she said, “I’m up to 120.” I shook my head. “Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?” I asked her. “There’s not another person on this planet who would call you fat.” And she began to argue with me, explaining that her clothes were tight and she had flab on her rear end and the backs of her thighs.
Please get this: what you see when you look in a mirror is not what everyone else sees. (Unless, of course, you’re the world’s tallest woman, but that’s another story.) Most people—guys especially—see the big picture. Yes, we are famous for checking out certain parts of the female anatomy, but that’s in our God-given DNA. I still contend that most of us are not looking for or expecting perfection. We’re smart enough to know that the glossy centerfold has had her pimples and moles and cellulite airbrushed into oblivion . . . and without her makeup on looks pretty much like any other woman.
I believe one of the best and healthiest things you could do for yourself would be to give up the microscopic scrutiny of every square inch of your body . . . and the whining and complaining that go along with it. I also believe God would appreciate not having to listen to you dis his handiwork. Remember, that nose you hate is a one-of-a-kind original designed by the master artist himself.
[B head] Myth #3: What You See Makes or Breaks Your Love Life
The movie version of the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical Hairspray released in theaters all across America in July 2007. My wife, Marilyn, loves musicals and so do I, so we were among the first to see it. We enjoyed it, but what really blew us away was how stridently it contradicts the message pop culture tries to hammer into our heads.
Set in 1962, the story focuses on Tracy Turnblad, a high school girl with big hair and even bigger dreams. She fantasizes about being one of the featured dancers on a locally produced American Bandstand–style television show. She also happens to think the lead dancer, Link Larkin, is the hunk to end all hunks. But alas, Tracy is considerably overweight. All the other dancers on the show are slim and trim, especially Link’s girlfriend, a snooty, drop-dead gorgeous blonde who happens to be the lead dancer. Even Tracy’s overweight mother (played hilariously by John Travolta) discourages her from trying out for a spot on the show, because she fears Tracy will only be humiliated. And as far as Tracy’s crush on Link goes, everybody knows a good-looking guy would never be interested in a girl with a weight problem.
But two hours and several production numbers later, the movie closes with Tracy and Link kissing center screen while snooty Miss Drop-Dead Gorgeous pouts in the background. Final score: size 16–1, size 5–0.
Unrealistic, you say?
I beg to differ.
Open your eyes and look around. The world is full of Tracy Turnblads, women who are not prototypical beauties according to society’s standards but who more than make up for it with character and personality. They often end up riding into the sunset with the love of their lives, while more than a few so-called beauties in this world spend their lives bouncing from relationship to relationship and never find true happiness.
The other day Marilyn and I were in a restaurant when a family of four walked in and took a table nearby. Dad was a handsome guy, fit and clean-cut. The kids were preschoolers, cute as they could be. And mom was, well . . . let’s just say she wasn’t going to win the Mrs. America pageant anytime soon. But there she sat, with a handsome husband, two cute kids, and a smile on her face.
I looked at Marilyn and said, “There sits Tracy Turnblad.”
Don’t think for a minute that because you aren’t centerfold material you have no shot at love. It just isn’t true. The next time you’re in a restaurant, at a ball game, or strolling though the mall, just look around at the couples. You’ll see Tracy Turnblads everywhere.
[A head] Drawing the Line
This morning when I signed on to AOL, a link to seven “beauty secrets” for women appeared. With everything you’ve just read fresh on my mind, I had to click on it. What I found were some very interesting products. Among them:
Control-It! Omega3 Nail Biting Cream. It’s odorless, invisible, and will not stain. But it tastes bad. No way you’re going to munch your pinkies with this stuff on. They say it’s guaranteed to give you beautiful nails in no time. No self-discipline required.
Fake Bake, Sunless and Skinny. The name says it all. It’s a cream that promises to tan, firm, and tone you all at the same time while you kick back and relax. Must be the seaweed it contains that does the trick.
But my favorite was Poutrageous Lip Plumper, “the answer to achieving the perfectly plump pout seen in all the magazines.” That claim alone should guarantee millions in sales.
Knowing where to draw the line in the pursuit of beauty and romantic fulfillment is one of the biggest challenges you face as a woman. All kinds of products, treatments, and surgeries promise to work miracles on your appearance, and their suppliers will try everything they can think of (including trashing your self-esteem) to get you to fork over your hard-earned money. Let’s face it. It’s in their interest to keep you believing those mirror myths I just addressed. The uglier you think you are . . . the more desperate you feel . . . the more you believe your looks will determine your happiness . . . the more you feel compelled to compete with that saucy little number in the next cubicle—the better the chance they have of getting into your pocketbook.
You simply must draw a line.
No, I’m not saying your bathroom should look like a man’s. I realize a girl needs her stuff. But at some point you need to slam on the brakes and say, “Enough is enough. I can be happy, feel good about myself, and have an interesting love life whether or not I achieve the perfectly plump pout seen in all the magazines.”
The challenge is knowing where to draw the line.
Allow me to offer three suggestions.
[B head] Suggestion #1: Embrace Reality
Do not, under any circumstances, deny who and what you are. Not long ago MTV created a show called I Want a Famous Face. It featured young people who were willing to undergo plastic surgery in order to look like their favorite celebrities. Ridiculous, you say? Indeed! But before you bang the gavel and pronounce yourself innocent, realize that you can make the same mistake in nonsurgical ways.
In her book God Chicks, Holly Wagner talks about the time she abandoned her God-given nature in an effort to become like a couple of older women who were successful Bible teachers:
I imitated these women in their teaching styles, their mannerisms, and their dress—all because I felt that if they were successful, then I needed to become like them. What an idiot I was!! One day as I was wrestling with my fifth pair of panty hose, and I was complaining about the sadistic man (I’m sure it was a man!) who invented them, I heard the Spirit of God laughing at me. (He does laugh, you know!) I felt that God was asking me what I was doing. I assured Him that I was getting dressed so I could go teach, and I was putting on panty hose because my two heroes wore panty hose and I needed to be like them in order to fulfill my destiny on earth. The Father quickly assured me that He didn’t need me to be like them. They were fine being themselves, and He didn’t need anyone else doing their jobs. He did, however, have a job for me to do on the planet, and He would empower me as soon as I was comfortable being who He created me to be.5
It’s not unusual to see both men and women living in denial when it comes to their appearance. The guy who wears a severe comb-over or the woman who’s still squeezing herself into size 8 jeans even though she hasn’t actually been a size 8 since the first Bush became president—both are living in fantasy worlds. So is the sixty-year-old grandma with bleached blonde hair and short shorts. So is the teenage girl with the bare midriff who looks like she just swallowed a football. Holly Wagner says she sensed God laughing as she, a non-panty-hose kind of girl, wrestled her panty hose like a python.
I can buy the notion of him chuckling at some of our fashion misadventures, but I can’t help wondering if there comes a point where he finds it all a little heartbreaking. When we refuse to be ourselves, aren’t we saying something about his handiwork?
I speak for a whole bunch of guys when I say that a woman who recognizes and embraces her reality is far more attractive than a woman who goes around every day wearing what amounts to a Halloween costume.
[B head] Suggestion #2: Build Your Look from the Inside Out
The apostle Peter wrote, “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). When Peter says not to be concerned about outward beauty, I don’t believe he means you should get up and go to work with bed head and bad breath. He’s simply saying that true beauty flows from the inside out.
Isn’t it true that people get better looking on the outside when you get to know them and realize they are beautiful on the inside? And it works in reverse too. I’ve met many beautiful women who, when I realized they were self-centered or immoral, suddenly started looking very ordinary. I believe this explains how women who might be considered homely or unattractive end up having extraordinary romantic relationships. What they lack in outer beauty, they more than make up for with inner beauty. And because men are spiritual beings as well as physical, we’re powerfully drawn to those beautiful inner qualities.
Sadly, even though good character is the greatest beauty secret of them all, you will probably never see it listed alongside the lip plumpers and tanning creams, online or anywhere else. Oh, and one more thing—I don’t know what a six-month supply of Poutrageous Lip Plumper costs, but I know that good character is free.
[B head] Suggestion #3: Be Modest
I’ll talk more about this in the next chapter, but it bears mentioning here. As you try to decide where to draw the line in your pursuit of beauty and romantic fulfillment, you’re going to be tempted to believe that tighter and skimpier is sexier. Trust me when I tell you that every day we guys see women we wish would put more clothes on.
When I see a woman dressed immodestly, I wonder if she’s trying to fill a void in her life. Is she feeling insignificant and crying out to be noticed? Is loneliness driving her to pull out all the stops in an effort to snag a companion? Do the lustful stares of strangers help her stave off the whispers of tattered self-esteem? Perhaps not in every case, but it isn’t unusual for inner struggles to produce highly visible attitudes and behaviors.
The apostle Paul wrote, “I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do” (1 Timothy 2:9, 10). I once heard a woman who had just read those verses say, “It sounds like God wants us all to be frumpy.” (By frumpy she meant matronly, unattractive, the opposite of sexy.) This is a classic example of how Satan has brainwashed us. The very notion that modesty isn’t sexy has the devil’s fingerprints all over it. I’m convinced that there are millions of men who actually prefer a classy, modestly dressed woman to one who looks cheap and trashy. And the men who don’t aren’t worth your time anyway.
Jesus said, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:19). This business of coming out of the world is the real issue here. It could mean different things to different people, but for a woman in our modern culture it certainly means wrestling with that image in the mirror. And wrestling might even be an understatement if you’ve been plugged into the world’s mind-set your whole life and are just now starting to realize that God has a different plan for you. Breaking free of culture’s grip and adopting a whole new way of thinking, dressing, and acting might be the biggest challenge you’ll ever face. Old habits die kicking and screaming.
But they do die if someone cares enough to kill them.
And they need to die if you want to be free.
As long as you allow the myths in the mirror to dictate the way you dress, act, and feel about yourself, you will be ruling out a world of wonderful possibilities. You might feel that the more you doll yourself up, the more your horizons expand. But I believe the opposite is true. The more makeup you layer on, the shorter your hemline gets, the more risqué your conversations become, the fewer decent men will be interested in you. Oh sure, you’ll grab their attention; but just remember, the monkeys at the zoo grab their attention too. That doesn’t mean they want to take one home.
You have a choice. As a woman, you can work to become what culture says you ought to be or what God says you ought to be. Ultimately, your choice and your future will be determined by what you believe when you stand in front of that mirror.
So Much More Than Sexy
Do you feel anxious about your looks? Is there something (or maybe more than one thing) about your looks that you’ve always hated? Do you have a tendency to compare yourself to other women? What’s the most radical thing (funny or serious) you’ve ever done to try to improve your looks?
Do you agree that character is the greatest beauty secret of them all? Can you name people who have become more beautiful in your eyes as you have gotten to know their character? What improvements could you make in your character that might make you more beautiful?
Read 1 Peter 3:3, 4. Up to this point in your life, have you worked harder on your looks or your inner qualities? What are some specific inner qualities you could cultivate that would make you more beautiful?
So Much More Than Sexy
Published by Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Atteberry
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in reviews, without the written permission of the publisher.
Substantive editor: Diane Stortz
Project editor: Lynn Lusby Pratt
Cover design: Susan Koski Zucker
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation second edition. Copyright © 1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Review to be shared mid November. 🙂