More Than Snapshot Faith

Originally published 10/21/2012

“Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight”
(1 Peter 3:4)

Today is picture day at school and I may need a vacation to recover.

The aftermath of this morning’s preparation is like an explosion in a boutique.  I returned to the house after waving goodbye to my daughters on the school bus and surveyed the damage.

Headbands, combs, clips and ribbon left a trail from the bedroom to the kitchen and the living room.

Pajama bottoms and tops and rejected dresses were strewn across every piece of furniture in sight.

A pile of not-good-enough shoes sat beside one dresser and a stack of pink and white stockings next to the other.

The morning’s activities had tired me out.  Even though we had planned their outfits for a week and carefully laid out their chosen wardrobe the night before, the morning had still been crazy with changed minds, fresh inspiration, and forgotten items.

And then there was the meltdown over the headband.  It involved many tears, angst, stubbornness, threats of punishment and varying opinions about the definition of “matching.”

I imagine my house this morning looks a little like King Xerxes’ court appeared as he searched for a second wife.  It was the biggest beauty pageant of all time and after 12 months of preparation (“six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women”), it all came down to one night (Esther 2:12).  One chance to knock the socks off the king and be chosen as his bride.

Yet, Esther was not dependent on beauty treatments, over-the-top jewelry, and exotic perfumes.  Hers was the beauty of consistent character and long-term loveliness of the heart and so she found favor with the king and became queen of the Persian empire.

Like the other women in this great Persian beauty pageant, we Christians sometimes focus too much on dressing up and dousing ourselves with perfume.  Our emphasis is often on the “picture days” of the Christian walk, on the posing, the practiced smile, the activity, the special occasions.

But our faith isn’t about snapshots.

We don’t prep ourselves for five minutes in front of a camera.  Did we greet everyone with joy on Sunday morning?  Did we say the right things in Sunday school?  Did we wear the right clothes?  Did we know the words to the songs and nod our heads at appropriate points in the sermon?

Our heavenly king isn’t making judgments about our beauty based on one night’s impression. That means mistakes don’t determine the rest of our lives.  If you’ve blown it this morning with your kids, made some bad choices, or messed up how you handled that situation, God’s grace provides you with restoration, renewed mercy and the fresh start of a new day. 

That’s why Moses is about more than his disobedience when bringing water from a rock (Numbers 20).  It’s why David’s ministry didn’t end with adultery and murder or why Peter wasn’t cast off forever after denying Christ.

It also means the moments of triumph don’t set us up on permanent religious pedestals.  God isn’t deceived by the external beauty treatments we apply.  Peter wrote, “Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4).

The beauty of our faith isn’t determined by those extraordinary seasons of spiritual victory, crisis or sin.  God is far more interested in the daily wardrobe of our soul and what happens when the cameras aren’t turned in our direction.

Oswald Chambers wrote:

“it does require the supernatural grace of God to live twenty-four house of every day as a saint, going through drudgery, and living an ordinary, unnoticed, and ignored existence as a disciple of Jesus.  It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God—but we do not.  We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people.”

My oldest daughter’s goal for picture day was to look just like a real princess.  My middle girl wanted to be “as cute as can be.”  And they succeeded. This one picture, though, won’t make them beautiful or ugly, cute or goofy.  They are always lovely and always loved.

It’s the same with us.  What’s far more important than how we look in a posed portrait is the ordinary, unnoticed, unexceptional holiness that we live out day after daily day. 

It’s the praying in the prayer closet, the doing dishes and washing clothes for your family.  It’s the ministry to a friend and your faithful, hard work at your job.  It’s responding with kindness and having patience with your spouse.  It’s putting the mistakes of the past behind you and it’s obeying God today with a cheerful heart.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

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