1 Peter 3:3,4 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit…
There are a lot of defects addressed in the bible that I really cannot identify with at first reading. This passage for instance, is specifically written for women, so it really has no application for me, right? I am never superficial, looking only at the external. I fell in love with my wife only because of her quiet, gentle spirit. I did not even notice how beautiful she was when I first met her. I am never vain, worrying about my own external appearance.
Once, several years ago, someone suggested that I looked like a certain movie star. Before my head got too big, someone else muttered, Maybe 40 pounds ago… The fact that this memory has stayed with me betrays that I am guilty of the superficiality that Peter warns of in this passage. I would like to think that I am above obsession with external appearance, but the truth is, when I met my wife, I was profoundly affected by her physical beauty (I still am). The effect she had on me initially had little to do with her inner beauty (though she is of course beautiful inside as well). I was and still am, very superficial indeed.
I spend a fair amount of time exercising every week. I tell myself that it is because exercise helps with my mental health (it does) and that it is my meditation time (it is), but I know that a part of me just wants to look more like that movie star (without the 40 extra pounds). The truth is, that my flesh nature cares more about my external appearance than that which is inside of me.
I do not think it is wrong to exercise, dress nice or comb my hair but it is defective for me to derive my self-worth from affirmation from others for my physical appearance. This kind of affirmation can become an addiction in itself. There is a fine line between feeling good about myself and being addicted to the approval/affirmation of others for my level of attractiveness. When the external becomes more important than the internal, I have become as whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of… all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).
I have often wondered what I condition I would be in if I spent as much time on my knees in prayer as I did exercising. What if I put as much effort into my spirit life as I did into my flesh life? As in all things, I need to be honest with God and myself. I need to acknowledge my own superficiality. I then need to daily work at keeping my eyes off the flesh life and on the spirit life.