Last week I heard God nudging me, telling me to step out of my comfort zone and to step up and share something at the Shine conference that is happening in December. I did the classic thing of ignoring it - thinking it was just my paranoid subconscious and that it would be a stupid idea to even suggest it to the leader of the event. But the voice kept coming back and nudging me, so I eventually gave in and scripted the most feeble ask in all of eternity with as many get out clauses for the leader as possible. And low and behold she said yes! So here I am starting to prepare/freak out about the fact that I have offered to share some of my testimony to a room full of 100-200 young women and their leaders in only a few weeks time. Not only that but I have chosen to speak on my decision not to wear make up and my time as a Christian throughout Secondary School, which is not something I have really spoken about before. But you know what? God looks after me - and this morning He revealed this passage of scripture to me: "Your beauty should not come from outward adornments, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 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 3:3-4
Me in Secondary School Yes I really did have that fringe!
One of the big reasons for Shine being born by Urban Saints was to help girls listen to the truth about what God thinks about them instead of listening to what the world says. Even though I know this it is still really hard to accept, and looking back on my time at secondary school is not going to be easy. I was the class swot, straight A student, and when you added known Christian into the mix it made me definitely someone to avoid. But I like to think that it was my "unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit" that attracted others and meant that I didn't go through school on my own, but had a host of friends around me.
I have always been blessed in that God gave me friends that respected my decisions and didn't force me or tempt me in other directions. Yes I went to parties but I made my choice not to drink and stood by it. Yes I wanted to follow fashion and look nice as all teenage girls did, but I didn't want to plaster my face in make up as a mask or reveal so much of myself with my clothes that nothing was left to the imagination! And I guess that when you are firm in your commitment to God and finding your beauty from that peace of knowing Him that it really does shine out. Right now, my mission field is very different to that of my Secondary School, but the pressures are all still there. The pressure to be the best dressed mum despite having to get dressed with an audience! The pressure to have your hair perfect despite my one year old's obsession to pull it. The truth of God's love for our spirit remains the same though, and that is what I cling to. That is what attracts other mums to me at the toddler group and that is what opens doors with my neighbours on the estate. Not my perfect hair or judgement of what they might be wearing, but a spirit that is welcoming and caring. That is what is attractive and what prompts questions. I am not saying we have to be scruffy and neglect our appearance, but I truly believe that God works more powerfully when we allow him to make our spirits beautiful first. Mission can be sparked by beauty, but the beauty of our spirits not our bodies.