Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: According to Carolyn McCulley, single women can go to two extremes when it comes to physical beauty.

Carolyn McCulley: When we're younger we have a tendency to invest a lot more in our looks, confident or at least hoping that this will be something that God would use to draw a man's attention to ourselves. And yet I've seen as women get older, there's also this temptation to kind of give up and not really put any effort in at all to be feminine.

Leslie Basham: It's Thursday, June 16th, and you are listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Here's Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Have you reached the age yet that you've discovered that whatever measure of physical beauty you may have had when you were a young girl is rapidly fleeting, the truth of what Scripture says that outward beauty is fading.

Well, I've reached that age and some of you have as well, and we want to talk about that today with our guest, Carolyn McCulley, whose written a book called, Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? Trusting God with a Hope Deferred. Today we want to talk with Caroline about this whole matter of physical beauty and inner beauty as well. Carolyn, welcome back to Revive Our Hearts.

Carolyn: Thank you.

Nancy: Carolyn, in your book you devote a whole chapter to the subject of beauty. You call it deceptive charm. Why is the whole thing of beauty such a deceptive charm?

Carolyn: I think, particularly for single women, we can be tempted to bank on our physical beauty as a way of attracting men, and if we see it fading then we start to think, "There's no way now. Look at this. Look at these crow's feet. Look at that gray hair. Look at those upper arms waddling in the breeze." Whatever that is. We can start to think that that is going to limit God in His purpose and His plan for our lives.

Nancy: And yet we are always in a race against the decay of these physical bodies.

Carolyn: It's true what Paul had to say is very right. Outwardly, we are wasting away, but I am banking on that inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

Nancy: That's the kind of beauty we want to talk about here in a few moments, but let's go back to the matter of physical beauty. We've talked about this before on Revive Our Hearts. This is a subject that really applies to all women, whether married or single. We tend to go to one of two extremes. Either we become a slave to the mirror, or we come to the place where we say it doesn't matter at all, and we distain the idea of doing anything to take care of our bodies physically.

Carolyn: I think you see that as a trend in single women too. When we're younger we have a tendency to invest a lot more in our looks, confident or at least hoping, that this will be something God will use to draw a man's attention to ourselves. Yet I've seen as women get older that there's also this temptation to give up and not really put any effort in at all to be feminine. I'm not talking about being a stunning beauty. I'm just talking about basic femininity, making an effort at hair and make-up and things that men do notice. They notice when we make an effort.

Nancy: So, is the point of the effort to do it for men?

Carolyn: No, but that's often a starting point for women. We filter a lot of our decisions through what men think, and then some cases through what other women think. I've heard it said that women often get dressed more for the opinion of other women than what men think.

Nancy: So someone might say, "I'm not a people pleaser. I don't care about pleasing men or pleasing women, so why does it matter what I look like?"

Carolyn: Well, obviously if we are concerned about doing good for our future husbands, if we are concerned about blessing him, then there is going to be an effort we are going to make because it's a reality that men are attracted to women. I've heard it taught to married women that they do need to be mindful of what their husband prefers in their appearance. How he prefers her hair. How he prefers her make-up, etc because she is to be pleasing him in that way.

But there is one whose opinion of our beauty is far more important, and that's the Lord. His view of our beauty includes the inner beauty--what we're doing to have a quiet and gentle heart before Him, and what kind of trust we have cultivated because that does radiate out.

A woman who's trusting the Lord has a serene countenance. She's not frowning and fretful and just stretched taunt with anger and impatience, but she is gracious and the smile that adorns her face may well give her smile lines in the future, but what's etched into her face is a smile and not a frown.

Nancy: So, what can give a woman that kind of inner beauty?

Caroline: Well, I think one of the ways is recognizing what Scripture says. When it says that our beauty is fleeting, the word that is used there is hebel, and it means a meaningless chasing of the wind. It just blows through our fingers as soon as we can try to grasp it. It's not lasting, but we can cultivate what is lasting, and that is that quiet and gentle spirit that we are talking about. That comes through the practice of submission that we are called to as wives.

When we are single, we don't have a husband that we are directly submitted to. But there are ways that we can acknowledge the authority in our lives to support and encourage them. So where appropriate, how are we responding to our pastors and their leadership? How are we responding to our bosses and their leadership? And even as adults, how are we honoring and respecting our parents?

Nancy: So, even as a single woman we have a need to develop a heart of submission, and that's part of that inner beauty that is attractive to the Lord and to others.

Carolyn: It's true, and I think that's one of the reasons that Sarah is commended to us because her first name actually meant contentious. But she was renamed later as Sarah, which meant princess, in order to represent the work that the Lord was doing in her life in teaching her trust and dependence on Him and His provision and in supporting and encouraging her husband, Abraham.

Nancy: What a great illustration that is because Sarah, as she was moving into her seventies, eighties, and nineties, probably was not becoming more beautiful physically, but her inner person was becoming more beautiful. She was becoming transformed into a godly woman--from contentious to a princess.

That gives a woman like me, in her mid-forties, a lot of hope because I'm seeing the gray hairs. I'm seeing the sagging parts of the body and some changes that I am not real excited about. But I am excited about the potential of the process of God making me more like Jesus, thus becoming more radiant, more beautiful, and a more gracious woman even while the outer person is decaying.

Carolyn: Well, Scripture does say that those who look to the Lord, their faces are radiant, and they never need to be ashamed.

Nancy: I love that verse.

Carolyn: I think that's so important as we get older that we do look to the Lord. We are not ashamed about our singleness. We are not ashamed about our aging because that's part of His plan unfolding in our lives. As we look to Him, our trust can just radiate from our countenance, and that is attractive to others.

We see this often when we see men. We might say, "Oh, he's not all that attractive." But when we get to know him and we get to see his character, suddenly his looks are transformed before us and we think, "He is a pretty good looking guy." And if that happens to us, don't we think that men also are thinking the same way?

I think that's why Proverbs 11:22 says that a woman who's beautiful and lacks discretion is as comical as a pig with a gold ring in its snout--depending on that outer adornment to try to cover all the things that would be indiscrete and unattractive.

Nancy: There's no amount of outer physical beauty that can make up for a woman who's a shrew.

Carolyn: That's true.

Nancy: Now while there's nothing inherently wrong with having outward physical beauty, sometimes physical beauty can be used by woman in sinful ways.

Carolyn: It's true. It's a form of power, welding power over men when you are more tempted to elicit a response from them based on physical beauty rather than on character or on serving. You're tempted to manipulate because you know the effect your appearance would have. These are not godly motivations; they are self-centered motivations. They say, "Look at me." They are making more of yourself and not making more of God.

Nancy: So, as in everything, the goal in life is to make a lot of God, to be others-centered, to be Christ-centered, and to radiate as women the beauty that comes from a contented heart, from a heart that loves the Lord, a heart that loves others. I've known you long enough, Carolyn, to know that you're sitting here talking about all these things very articulately, but God is in the process of doing a transforming work in you.

We've talked about some of the struggles you've had because we've both had them of dealing with unruly passions, unruly tongue, and developing that gentle and quiet spirit. I know it's something that you are very intentional about developing, but it's something that doesn't come naturally for either one of us. I think someone can listen to us talking today and think, "Well, those women are just naturally gentle, quiet-spirited, meek women." Tell them the truth.

Carolyn: Any of my friends listening to the broadcast wouldn't be thinking that. I think that often women are tempted when they read that Scripture to think that this is a personality or temperament issue. "I'm not naturally exuberant, or I'm naturally loud, or I'm never going to be meek and mousy like such and such woman over there." I don't think that's what the Lord is addressing. I think he has made his daughters in a variety of personalities and temperaments.

But you can be a quiet, reserved woman and not be trusting before God. You can have a lot of distrust and keep yourself closed off from other people and not commune with Him in prayer. That happens irrespective of your own natural temperament.

A woman who is growing in a gentle and quiet spirit is growing in trusting the Lord. She might survey circumstances she doesn't like at that moment or she may have questions, but she's ultimately a woman who goes to her knees in prayer and says, "Lord, I don't understand this, or this is really tough, or I feel like a plant being forced to grow through concrete, but I know you have a purpose in this. So, I'm not going to rail. I'm not going to be angry. I'm not going to complain to everyone in sight. I'm going to try to look for the good and try to speak purposefully about the good things that I see happening."

Nancy: What an important principle that is for single women as they get older who have these unfulfilled longings for marriage. You know there is nothing so unattractive, I think, as a bitter, older, single woman. She's become hard and harsh, cynical, critical, and there's not that inner beauty. It's not because her physical beauty has dissipated that she has become unattractive. It's because there's something missing in her spirit.

Carolyn: That was one of the first things I noticed when I became a Christian. One of the first women that I met was an older woman, now about my age in her early forties. She was quite discontented about being single, and I remember judging her and sort of keeping her at arms length. I thought, I don't want to be anything like that. If that's what I have to be being single, then just get me married.

Now, she's since left the church. I don't know what's happened to her, and time has humbled me. I am now her age, and I am now single. I better understand her temptations. I am not excusing them, but I better understand them. I trust that as God has humbled me and softened me in my judgment of older, single women that he has also been working in her life. I trust that wherever she is now she is flourishing.

But there is a tendency when you are younger to look at women who are older and think, "There is some kind of contamination there. Just keep me away from them. Lord, just anything but allowing me to become an older, single woman." I believe that people can be tempted to think that way because the uniform witness of older, single women isn't always that of contentment and trust, but it is bitterness.

Nancy: How do you want to be known and viewed as an older, single woman?

Carolyn: Well, you know when I was younger I always wanted to be something like a roller blade granny. The kind that would get out there and still be fun and current on all the music and know what was happening in culture.

But now I think to myself, what I really want to be known as is not necessary somebody who is plugged into the culture but is somebody who is really joyful in the Lord's plan unfolding in her life and who blesses that in other people's lives, who is willing to serve others and not hold back because they got something that I didn't get.

Leslie Basham: That's Carolyn McCulley on embracing singleness as a good gift from God. She's been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss all this week about her book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? It helps single women understand how to develop biblical qualities of femininity during every season of life.

You can order Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? when you call us at 1-800-569-5959. That's 1-800-569-5959. You can also find out more online by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, and while you're there you can read a transcript of today's program and email it to someone who would enjoy hearing what Caroline and Nancy had to say.

You can also donate online. We can provide biblical counsel to single and married women on the radio and over the web because listeners like you give. Again the address is ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also send a donation to Revive Our Hearts, Box 82500, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68501.

Tomorrow Carolyn will give helpful advice to women who struggle with loneliness. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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