A Time For Silence

In our culture, silence is a rare thing. And in my life and the lives of many other students, it is hard to come by.

I’m go, go, go all week with a maximum of 7 hours of sleep a night, if that; these are often my only hours of contemplation. Weeks go by and I realize I haven’t read my Bible and I’ve barely prayed, except on the run.

Sunday comes. Sunday is my Sabbath, at least it is supposed to be. This semester, I’ve mostly committed to not working yet it’s hard to get my mind out of ‘the mode.’ All week, I long for Sunday and imagine all the beautiful things that are going to happen. But when I get there I’m too exhausted to do any of them. But at the same time, I’m too used to being stimulated to completely do nothing.

These ‘symptoms’ are merely the result of a busy and full life. I’m not complaining. I know many others put up with such a lifestyle and I don’t think that busyness is completely unhealthy. Certain aspects of it are, but life should be full and hard and even, exhausting.

Yet there is a time for silence, I think, that is often forgotten. Often trampled on. Often dismissed.

We say we don’t have time. There’s this and there’s that. A meeting to get to and an exam to study for, lunch to make and oh, look, there’s people to talk to. I often adopt the attitude that it’s best to plough through and get everything done; it’s best to use every minute, right?

Last Saturday, after a full day of rehearsal, I plopped down on a cushioned sit in the cafeteria, and sipped coffee for twenty whole minutes. In silence. No computer, no phone, no lines, or books. Just me and God and my thoughts.

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My mind was far from silent. A thousand thoughts raced through my brain.

I thought of the many drafts I’d made for this 20 minutes between rehearsal and driving to the next event. Singing practice, playwriting, Voice & Movement exercises, and blogging were among them. None of those are bad things. Actually, I generally enjoy all of them and doing any might have eased my stress later on.

But as I sat, I breathed in. And out. And in again.

And as I sipped, I appreciated the richness of the caramel I’d drizzled in the coffee and the warmth it emitted on my hands.

I enjoyed the people getting their dinners and meeting friends. I like to watch people. I’m an actor, a writer, an observer, an artist — sometimes I forget that. The silence reminded me again.

Visions formed in my head. Visions for my play, for my acting, for future writing projects, for fun.

Memories met me where I was and I laughed by myself in the caf.

I could feel the cuff of my coat and I saw it’s red reflection in the mirror and I remembered that I was wearing my favourite hat. All that made me happy, little and small as it was.

I dialoged with God a bit, too. Sometimes I forget to do that because it’s so loud and I forget He’s there.

Work is excellent and I highly encourage doing it hard. But it’s equally good to find silence from time to time.

Silence revives the soul. It reminds us who we were and who we love, what we do and how to do it.

So as you embark upon this week, I encourage you to find times to be silent. I promise you your mind will talk and so might your Maker.

Beautiful Like Jesus

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be beautiful. With all my heart, I wished and prayed for beauty. I liked to imagine that I was a beautiful princess who would someday be the Queen. And when that day came, dozens of young men would want to marry me because I was the beautiful queen. I still remember how, when I was about six-years-old, a boy shyly told his friend that he wanted to marry me because I was “kind of pretty.” I recall blushing, smiling, and cherishing his compliment. It was a gift to be beautiful.

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As I grew up, this desire did not leave me. In fact, it only followed me with more fervour. I grew to understand the concept of ugliness and knew that I would never want to be that. And so as zits appeared I covered them with make-up. I put pretty dresses on and flowers in my hair. I adorned myself on the outside, all in the name of beauty.

It wasn’t until early this year that I realized how shallow and small this “beauty” was. Outward beauty is a gift from God, yes. And every girl should feel beautiful because every girl was created attractively by God. But there is something more. It’s like the cake behind the frosting which gives the sugar substance. It’s what makes each of us girls more than just pretty or even more than beautiful. It is the beauty of the Saviour.

 A wife (or woman) of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

Proverbs 31:10

I was at a church dinner. This woman and I were sitting at the same table and after the regular small talk introductions, we’d ventured into deeper conversations. I’d shared my insecurities, worries, and struggles from every detail of my life. It was a deep discussion, to say the least.

“You need to be beautiful at heart,” she suddenly told me. I actually don’t remember what brought these words on except that they came. “You’re already beautiful on the outside, but you need to be more than that.”

“You mean inward beauty?” I asked, fully familiar with the term.

“Yes,” she replied. “You need to be beautiful like Jesus. Do you know what I mean?”

I nodded though the concept that she spoke of — beautiful like Jesus — was slightly new. I knew what she meant yet I didn’t. Inward qualities such as love, patience, kindness, and self-control had always been on my radar. They rarely came easily to me, but I still strove for ‘inward beauty.’ Yet until that moment I hadn’t really considered Jesus’ qualities as beautifying to me as pretty clothing or a good complexion.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the infading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.

1 Peter 3:3-4

This concept of “Jesus Beauty” is still new to me. I have to admit that I’ve failed at it time and time again. I’m so ugly at heart sometimes that I am not even qualified to be writing this post. But I’m working on it because my fear of ugliness is even greater now. I want to be beautiful more than ever before — beautiful, like Jesus, that is.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30

The Make-Up Trap

It was amazing in totally the wrong way. It was exhaustive and saddening to the core of my heart. With one look at that little glass bottle full of gooey “pretty”stuff, the insecurities came back. My beauty and confidence melted and the overpowering addiction for make-up returned.

It was a youth event two weeks ago. The boys were doing “boy stuff” and us girls were doing, well, “girl stuff.” We were supposed to have makeovers. Every one was happy about it and no one could really understand why I wasn’t. After all, make up can get rid of things like zits and pimples, bring out eyes, give a pale face colour, and make a girl beautiful.

As I sat there, watching each girl get her make over done by a¬†professional, I wondered what I should do. At first, my resolution was a firm “No.” I’d made a promise not to wear make up for a year and I wanted to stick to it. But as I watched each girl go up and saw the fun of picking colours out and how they glowed when the artist was finished, I started to succumb. With a little make up, we could all look beautiful.

Suddenly, I became aware of every imperfection on my face. I thought of the skin I wished were clearer. I remembered the red spots and the zits I just couldn’t get rid of. I felt my chapped lips and recalled how my cheekbones could be more defined. Thinking of this, I felt ugly.

I knew that the foundation would wash away my zits. I remembered how a little blush could make my cheekbones look perfect. Make-up, I realized, could make me beautiful.

I didn’t want to believe it, but I did. I’d come to refute the lie many times, but now I gave in. I had been called beautiful and accepted myself and every girl as such, with or without make-up several times in the ten months. Still, I couldn’t help but think that all of the guys would notice me as the odd one out with all the other girls in make-up. No one would think I was beautiful today. Now, with the bottles of foundation and eye liner brushes staring me in the face, I let go of all the beauty, confidence, and joy I had every known. The make-up made me feel uglier than I had ever felt before.

I was trapped that night in the church room with girls getting their make-up done. I was trapped by the lies and misconceptions about beauty. The force of a world without true beauty imprisoned me. I gave in to Satan’s lies that He tries to get me and every woman to believe. I fell into the make-up trap and my beauty disappeared.

But then it hit me, that I was believing a bunch of lies. As quickly as the temptation had come, God’s truth brought me back. I talked to my youth pastor. I looked at myself in the mirror and remembered that God had made me beautiful just the way I was. I realized that if just looking at make-up made me feel ugly, how much uglier would I feel when it was on my face?

There is nothing inherently wrong with make-up, in my opinion. I think that it can be fun to experiment with from time to time and that it is OK to use on a regular basis. I still wear it when I am in a play and will probably use a bit for special occasions like Grad or my wedding day. However, when it consumes you the way it consumed me a year ago it is not healthy. If you can’t live without it and feel ugly when it isn’t on your face then make-up is an addiction, a trap, and something that needs to be cut from your life.

That night, when we all came downstairs, I was happy with my choice. No one noticed that I wasn’t wearing make-up. My youth pastor and a leader even commended my choice. And throughout the night, I felt free like I had the first time I swam again, because make-up did not ensnare me. I didn’t have to worry about it melting off of my face or smudging. Instead of worrying about how ugly I would look without make-up, I smiled in the fact that God had made me beautiful.

What is trapping you today? Is it make-up? Or is it something else? What is holding you from freedom in Christ? I encourage you to take it to God today and fight against any insecurity that is holding you down. With His love, you can conquer your greatest fears.