"List one thing about your appearance you would change if you could," I challenged my Bible study teens.
"Just one?" they responded in unison.
Each of the seven had her own complaint: high forehead, crooked nose, too fat, too fat, too fat, thin hair, too short.
I reminded them that the Biblical words "fearfully and wonderfully made," used to describe how God knit them together in their mother's wombs, were not followed with "except." God saw them perfect ... just the way they were. Why couldn't they see themselves as He did?
I listed their attributes and their accomplishments; I told them they were precious to God, but these reminders fell on deaf ears.
As we probed deeper, I was astonished to learn that they were unconfident even in the school hallways between classes, wondering if other students were mocking their gait, their bangs, their shoes ... whatever baggage of insecurity they were lugging.
And these were some of the most popular girls in our school.
"First of all, look at each other. Do you see a high forehead, a fat body, a crooked nose?" I asked.
Of course they didn't. They were shocked because they knew each other well and saw their friends as so "together." Surely this group of peers couldn't be as insecure as they!
That conversation took place a few years ago, but it's equally true now. In my speech class assignment on self-concept, students are to write five adjective-noun combinations that describe them.
Typically they are negative (i.e. unkind brother, stupid student, uncoordinated athlete, etc.). Next to each description they are to explain who or what labeled them as such. Parents are the main culprits. But classmates run a close second. Predominantly middle schoolers.
Apparently if a 14-year- old can squash whatever self worth a classmate has managed to salvage up to that point, she claws up a rung or two on the status ladder. How sad!
The hormonal roller coaster ride, the gangly legs, the acne breakouts and the underarm fuzz should be enough to make one feel inadequate. Who needs friends to keep you in low places?
The Bible makes it clear that being a beautiful person does not guarantee a blessed life. Think about it.
Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery.
Rachel was beautiful. And jealous. And manipulative. And died in childbirth.
Saul, Israel's first king, was petrified of his position and was dethroned because of his disobedience.
Samson could have won the Mr. Universe contest, except it's hard to impress the judges when your eyes have been gouged out.
And lest we forget, there was hunk King David who was also an adulterer, a murderer, a poor father, and not such a great husband.
The teens in our Bible study were no different than the ones I teach now. They had bought into the ever-popular air-brushing lie, believing beauty guarantees the perfect marriage and the perfect life.
Halle Berry and Christie Brinkley know otherwise. As gorgeous as they are, their husbands weren't satisfied.
I told the girls I could name on one hand the number of famous movie stars whose marriages survived into their golden years. But actually, I couldn't.
Far too many of us tend to look in the mirror and see only flaws. We fail to understand that true beauty begins when God transforms our hearts.
After all, He is the ultimate makeover artist. His work just happens where it matters -- on the inside.