Most little girls dream of gliding down a runway in a flowing gown and a glittering crown. Most grown-up girls know they’re not beauty queens and mutter under their breath about “those airheads competing on stage.”
I’m one of those “airheads” who has stood under the floodlights with a pasted-on smile. And though I never sauntered away with a crown perched on my head, the experience was invaluable.
I should tell you that I entered my small county fair pageant in an effort to face my fears. At the time, nothing seemed more terrifying. Oh, it wasn’t like the pageants you see on TV; it was held in a field the first year and a barn the second year. Seriously. I felt comfy entering this particular pageant because its point was less about showcasing some unrealistic standard of beauty and more about building our communication skills. But it still required me to get faaarrr out of my comfort zone.
Here are four lessons I learned from entering a pageant.
- I learned to support and love the very girls I was competing against.
For several weeks I practiced, laughed, ate, and dreamed with these girls. The first day I met them, I was faced with a choice: withdraw from them because they were my competition or encourage and love them. I chose the latter and enjoyed friendships and even reciprocal support from them. Makes me think of Proverbs 14:30:
A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.
Are you loving the girls in your life or competing with them?
- I learned more about who I was.
As I prepared for the fishbowl questions and interview, I pondered questions I’d never considered before. Who is my role model, and why? What would I do with an extra hour every day? What quality do I desire most in a friend? If I were President for a day, what would I change? This thoughtful reflection was beneficial, as it’s easy to hurry through life without knowing who you are or what you believe.
Wanna take a stab at it? Here are three actual pageant questions:
- Where do you see yourself fifteen years from now?
- Who is the most influential person in your life?
- What constitutes true beauty?
- I learned to accept criticism.
Often there’s wisdom to be gained from the criticism of others. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to listen to instruction (even when it’s painful!).
One traumatic afternoon, the contestants and I were learning a dance routine. (I should let you know I didn’t dance as a child; I participated in spelling bees. I can spell “D-A-N-C-E” forward and backward, but maneuvering my body in unnatural positions doesn’t come easy.) One of the pageant directors unsuccessfully tried to stifle her laughter at my pitiful attempts, and her laugh came out like a snort. That night, I considered dropping out of the pageant, but opted to work under a critical eye.
Often there’s wisdom to be gained from the criticism of others. Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to listen to instruction (even when it’s painful!). Proverbs 29:1 says it this way:
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
How do you handle criticism? Do you look for the wisdom in it or “stiffen your neck” out of anger or pride?
- I learned to carry myself with more confidence.
I didn’t realize this when I first entered the pageant, but confidence is what wins a crown. The judges aren’t so narrow-minded that they only want a blond, tanned, curvy beauty. They want a uniquely gifted woman who is comfortable with herself. This was hard for me. Truth was, I wasn’t a confident girl. I was full of insecurities. But I did my best to put on a façade of confidence. I learned how to carry myself and walk—two skills I thought I’d mastered years before! I practiced everywhere: walking through the mall, driving in my car, and waiting tables at Pizza Hut.
Years later I’m still learning how to live with confidence. Except this time it’s not tied to how I carry myself or how I walk. The secret is found in Proverbs 14:26:
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence.
My source of confidence isn’t in a makeover or new clothes or a confident walk. Just like the source of my beauty isn’t a fancy dress or pageant-worthy hair. It’s in knowing my awesome God and thinking more of Him and His view of me than I think of people’s opinions of me.
What makes you feel confident?
Your everyday life is a lot like a beauty pageant—taking tests for grades, going to school with the “pretty” girls, pushing yourself to train for basketball season. How have you faced some of these same struggles in your life?
(Come back tomorrow for four more lessons I learned from entering a pageant.)
Did you know there’s a story of a runaway slave in the Bible?
Here’s the backstory. Philemon once owned a slave named Onesimus. That is, until Onesimus ran away.
But in God’s sovereignty, Onesimus crossed paths with Paul and came to believe in Paul’s Jesus. Onesimus was then a huge help to Paul, but Paul didn’t feel okay partnering in the gospel with Onesimus without Philemon knowing about it. So Paul wrote Phil a letter.
In it, he asks Philemon to take Onesimus back. But not as a bondservant. He asks Philemon to consider him as "more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother." Now that Onesimus has put his faith in Jesus, they belong to the same family. God is their Father, and they are now brothers.
This would’ve been a crazy news flash for Philemon, almost too much to take in without sitting down. Paul was telling Philemon that his slave, Onesimus, was no longer a second-class citizen. Even though they ran in different circles and seemed to have almost nothing in common, and even though Philemon may have thought he was much better than Onesimus, they were actually equals at the cross. The gospel tore down every barrier that separated them. Jesus welcomed them both into the family of God, so they were now brothers in Christ—family.
Reminds me of Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (emphasis added).
We’re not told how the story ends, only that Paul is confident Philemon will obey him and will view Onesimus as more than.
And that’s where you and I come in. I bet you don’t own slaves, but you do know misfits. People we view that way, anyway.
- Maybe you view that girl at youth group—the one with the lip ring—as a misfit. Or maybe you view that girl without piercings as a misfit. But have you ever stopped and thought of her as more than a misfit . . . as your sister in Christ?
- Maybe you refuse to even make eye contact with that guy who smells like he sleeps in a trash can. But do you realize he’s more than a misfit . . . he’s your brother in Christ?
- Maybe you make fun of those quiet sisters with the long skirts and braids. Or maybe you look down on those girls wearing the tight skinny jeans. But do you receive them as your sisters in Christ?
Just because they look or smell or act differently than you, do you really believe God loves you more because you perceive yourself as more "normal" on the outside?
Or are you flat-out stunned that God would pick you up out of the trash heap of sin, clean you inside and out—even your heart—and open wide His arms to you? Cause He did that for you. And for them.
They are so much more than a misfit . . .
FYI: This post was inspired by a sermon Brad Neese preached. I didn’t have the privilege of hearing it, but I heard about it from those who did.
“More Than a Misfit” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
I’d planned a special day out for my mom’s birthday. We’d tour the Billy Graham Museum, bike the Prairie Path, and sample the food at Manhattan’s.
Only problem was I’d been sick for weeks now, and this past weekend was no exception.
Mom called the morning of her birthday outing to encourage me to stay home and get better. That’s right, the birthday girl—on the day of her party—encouraged me to do what was best for me, not her!
Over the years Mom has modeled that love always chooses what’s best for the other—and not just with words but with her life. It’s 1 Corinthians 13:5 lived out before my very eyes:
[Love] does not insist on its own way.
A couple of days later, I did make it home, still under the weather. Mom met me at the door with a hug, put on a pot of soup, and told me she’d had my brother get the VCR all ready so I could watch The Jungle Book.
How had she remembered? I’d mentioned in passing, months ago, that I wanted to watch this movie again.
Over the years, Mom has demonstrated that love remembers the little things. It’s 1 Corinthians 13:4 in action:
[Love] is kind.
These aren’t a couple of isolated incidents. I could tell you the same story with slightly different details over and over again, because this is the pattern of my mom’s life.
I guess you could call her my “love coach.” I’m watching her, learning from her, making clumsy attempts to love others the way she loves me. The way Jesus loves me.
‘Cause while mom is my “love coach,” I know the One loving me through her is really Jesus. Without Him, she couldn’t love like she does.
But because my mom has first been loved by Jesus, she is now free to love without requiring anything in return.
Because Jesus’ Spirit lives in my mom, she now has the power to choose what’s best for others rather than for herself.
And because Jesus laid down His life for my mom, His is the model she seeks to follow.
For His love, and for her love, I couldn’t be more grateful.
Happy birthday, Momma! I want to be like you when I grow up.
Who’s your love coach? How have they modeled Jesus’ way of love to you? I’d love to hear.
And if you don’t mind, I think I’ll stretch out and watch The Jungle Book while I’m waiting for your reply . . .
“Meet My Love Coach” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.
In just over three weeks you’ll get the inside scoop on my relationships with guys in Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. There’s one story you won’t read in it, though, because it’s super fresh.
After I wrote Confessions, I began to date an incredibly godly man . . . and then I broke up with him about a month ago. Since then, I’ve experienced a whole lot of shame and guilt for not being more “spiritual,” for not having been satisfied with a godly man. What more could a girl ask for?
The messages I’ve picked up from the Christian world have taunted me. Find a godly man and marry him is the message I’ve heard loud and clear. He won’t be perfect; you’re not perfect; just get married. I’ve nodded my head and begged God to help me value the things He values.
But at the end of the day there was no peace, no joy in moving forward—only heaviness and tears. And so I said goodbye, and then the shame came.
Last week I realized why, at least in part. I’ve grown up knowing that Jeremiah 17:9 is true:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
If I can’t trust my heart, if I can’t know my heart, how can I make good decisions?
At the same time . . . hasn’t God given me a new heart? Removed my heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh? Hasn’t He made all things new, including my heart? Doesn’t Jesus Christ now live in my heart through faith?
And if God can turn the king’s heart—the most powerful man in the land—wherever He wants, can’t He turn my heart too? Won’t He do the same for me, His daughter, who longs to know and do His will?
So I will continue to ask and trust God to turn my heart wherever He wants. And when the guilt and shame and self-loathing threaten to beat me up, I will rest in 1 John 3:20:
Whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.
It’s true that left to myself, I can’t trust my heart. But I can trust the God who is greater than my heart . . . and I can trust Him with my heart.
How is God asking you to trust Him with your heart today?
“When You Break Up . . . And The Shame Floods In” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.