What is True Beauty?

February 23, 2017 by

“I hope this book will give some real life examples of what it means to be a Christian woman,” Amanda said as she handed a copy to each of us in our Bible study group at West Virginia University. The book was Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge. The title alone had me on guard but I began to read in the hope that, whether or not it was a life-changing book, it could spark some genuine discussion among the young women in our group.

It did just that a week later when some of our group questioned the authors’ condemnation of churches that spread the message that women are here to serve. Stasi Eldredge writes that women who serve in the church are just wearing themselves out trying to be the ideal “Proverbs 31” woman. “I don’t get that,” one girl protested, “I thought that service is one of the best things we can do to show people that we love Jesus.”

We talked about service inspired by love opposed to service to make ourselves look good in others’ eyes. One of the girls commented that if we are serving Jesus, not people, we shouldn’t get tired or discouraged. After some more back and forth and some research on what Jesus says about service, we concluded that service is very much a part of being a Christian woman, or man for that matter.

a group of women talking and laughing together

As I read further, one certain theme was illustrated and expounded page after page: Inside every woman there is beauty, power, and freedom, and God wants us to find this new person and be “captivating” because we are made in his image. Stasi Eldredge’s thoughts are inspirational and encourage women to throw off self-consciousness, rise above peer pressure, and be who God wants them to be. But I felt a danger that this focus could become more about me – my thoughts, feelings, and inner capabilities – than about God.

As I read, I kept thinking of something my grandfather told me when I was preparing to publicly commit my life to Christ a few years ago. He said, “Don’t fall into the trap of trying to find out who you really are. Find out who Jesus is. That’s all you need to do.”

I realized that that is what bothered me as I read Captivating; I know all too well who I really am and that any beauty or strength I see in that woman is a lie. What I need – what Grandpa encouraged me to do – is to look away from my rotten self and look at Jesus. In him we can see beauty, power, and strength, but we also see humility, compassion, and selfless service.

This is the answer for the women the Eldredges describe in their book: women enslaved by vanity, oppressed by social expectations, discouraged by their inability to obtain ideal beauty, confidence, or spirituality. If we truly find out who Jesus is it will lead to sacrifice, humiliation, service, and then, through all of that, we’ll find true freedom and beauty.


Anetta Shirky lives at the Morgantown Bruderhof community house and attends West Virginia University, where she is studying elementary education.

After writing this, I came across this post on Crosswalk. It says what I was feeling much better than I could say it and is worth a read.

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Anetta Shirky

Anetta Shirky

Anetta Shirky lives at the Mount Community, where she teaches the fifth and sixth grades.

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  • This is so true. Follow Jesus only and all else will fall into its best place, including ourselves. We are nothing without Him. We CAN be the Proverbs 31 woman with Him living in us and through us. We can never be that without Him! When we, as women, follow His leading regardless of whether or not it falls into something society finds "admirable" we will always be blessed and beautiful in HIS eyes! That's what matters! Thanks for this article.

    Angie Merchant
  • True beauty is the beauty of the spirit of a human. It is the beauty of the heart. We must live the peace , love and kingdom of God in our hearts.

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