Ladies, if you are considering fasting during Lent (the season before Easter, starting this week on the day known as Ash Wednesday) but you haven’t yet decided what to fast, I have a suggestion for your consideration: Fast from makeup.
This isn’t the right choice for everyone, but for some of you maybe? Hear me out (especially if the thought of going without makeup for 6 weeks makes you nervous, or you think it would be too hard. If that’s your reaction, this may be for you…)
I bring it up because the very first time I fasted for Lent, I gave up makeup and the experience transformed my life, no exaggeration.
Before I gave up makeup for those 6 weeks, I was bound to the habit of wearing makeup daily. My self-worth and sense of belonging were tied up in my appearance (sadly, so common in our culture.) I wanted to be thought of as attractive, and I didn’t think I was pretty without makeup. I liked the way that makeup made me look, but I didn’t like my face much without it and I was pretty sure that no one else did either. Since I thought makeup made me look better, it made me feel better about myself too. Unfortunately, that had the negative effect of eroding my confidence and acceptance of my natural, unenhanced face. In college I would not leave my dorm room without makeup – at minimum I wore foundation, mascara, and lipstick daily, no matter what.
I was challenged one day when I heard/felt God “whisper” in my heart, “I like your face. I made it just for you. Who gets to decide that you’re beautiful? Doesn’t my vote count more than a stranger’s?” I knew that deep down, I really didn’t care if God called me beautiful. I wanted to know what other people thought, and I wanted to do whatever was necessary in order to see something appealing when I looked in the mirror. If that is where you’re at, I want to encourage you to consider making room to embrace a different perspective for a season.
Throughout the 6 weeks that I went without makeup, I learned a lot about myself, and I learned even more about God’s heart for me. It was a spiritual fast not just because I stopped doing/using/eating something, but because I intentionally used the tension of that change as fuel for prayer.
When I felt self-conscious, I would pray and ask God to show me how He sees me. When I found myself worrying excessively about my appearance, I prayed that I would know who God created me to be from the inside out, and I’d read scriptures about my identity as one who has been created for a purpose. When I looked in the mirror, I declared the truth of bible verses like “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” And “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” During the morning when I normally would spend time doing my makeup, I did spirit-nourishing things instead, like reading my bible, praying, singing, or other things that filled me up and helped me connect with God. I have never been the same.
I’m certainly not saying that there’s anything wrong with makeup. I still wear it when I have time and feel like it. It’s fun. I still like the way I look with makeup on. But I don’t fight against my face anymore. I’m not obsessed with looking my best all the time. (I also no longer define “looking my best” according to external beauty norms.) If I don’t have time for makeup or don’t feel like wearing it, I just don’t. And it’s totally fine. You might like my face better with makeup, but you know what? All due respect, I really don’t care what you think about the physical attractiveness of my face or lack thereof (though I hope my face reflects to you kindness, gentleness, and compassion).
If you want to know more about my journey with all this, I’m happy to share. I just wanted to put it out there as food for thought. I know my perspective is different than a lot of people. Maybe some of you never struggled with the issues that I did, and you can wear makeup with none of the unhealthy thought patterns that I described. That’s awesome! Be free! But if someone out there is in the place where I once was, I just want to reach out a tender hand and gently say “Come out here in the light. We want to see you. The real you. You are beautiful!”