When I was five years old, I was convinced Mom was the most beautiful woman in the world. I remember sitting in the only bathroom in our house watching her put on makeup complete with red lipstick. I was mesmerized.
She had acne scars from when she was a child, so when she’d go somewhere, she put on foundation and then, powder. She seemed to transform into a princess right before my eyes. It amazed me.
She didn’t wear eye makeup, but she loved bright red lipstick. With her dark hair and trim body, she looked like a movie star to me.
Can I Wear Some Lipstick?
“Mommy, can I wear some lipstick?” I asked.
She laughed. “You’re too young for red, but maybe we’ll get you some pink you can play with. Every little girl needs to feel beautiful.” She smoothed my hair and then went back to finishing her makeup.
She had just applied her lipstick when Dad came down the hall to hurry us along. He was preaching at a small Pentecostal church in another town. It was his first time there. He took one look at my beautiful mother and his face went white.
“You need to take off the lipstick,” he whispered urgently. “You can’t wear red lipstick to church.” I sat there with my mouth open watching Dad hurry off to find his good Sunday shoes.
Mom’s face fell as she began to wash off the lipstick. She was sad and I was sad for her. Her beauty seemed to fade as the beautiful red color disappeared down the drain.
“Why does Daddy not like lipstick? It makes you look so beautiful,” I asked.
“He thinks being too beautiful is sinful,” was her emotionless reply.
“But why? Doesn’t God like beautiful things?”
Good Christian Girls
In the car, I tried to continue the conversation with Dad. “When I get to be a big girl, I’m going to wear makeup,” I said.
“No,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Because it’s not what good Christian girls do.”
For some reason, that particular answer satisfied me at the time. After all, he was a preacher. He should know.
For the next 55 years, I didn’t wear makeup. If I did, I just used a little powder and clear lip gloss.
As I got older, I began to understand Dad’s issue with makeup, shorts, sleeveless shirts, low-cut dresses, tight-fitting clothes and even pants of any kind on women.
He felt it indicated a woman of loose morals who wanted to attract men. His other rules were that he preferred I wear dresses all the time. When I was at home and playing outside, I could wear slacks or shorts if the weather called for it.
Following the Rules
As a teen, young adult and even for years after I got married, I did many things to make sure I didn’t attract the wrong kind of man. In other words, I followed all the rules. I had to. It is what good Christian girls do. I have to follow the rules to be a good Christian.
There was one rule Dad never had. He never had rules about how much we could eat. Overeating was never seen as going against God or being a bad Christian. Still, I did feel remorse for overeating. I felt like God wanted me to lose weight. I just couldn’t wrap my head around how to do it and still eat the foods I loved.
Instead, I just worked harder and tried to do more good things for God. I knew I was not saved by following rules or doing good works, but the concept of grace seemed so unnatural.
That Thing Called Grace
Grace, of course, is not natural. It’s supernatural. God’s grace is undefinable. I thought it can’t be possible that God’s not sitting up in heaven somewhere keeping score of all I’ve done right and wrong. God is not concerned about my scorecard, though. He’s concerned about my heart.
“It was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in Him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ! So, no one will ever be able to boast, for salvation is never a reward for good works or human striving,” (Ephesian 2:8-9 TPT).
Those words helped convince me God doesn’t expect anything from me. I don’t have to do anything to earn the salvation He freely gave me. Still, following all the rules was still a stronghold.
I couldn’t understand why the Creator of the universe would give me the gift of His salvation without expecting something in return. There is only one answer. He gave me grace, undeserved favor.
He expects nothing in return, but He desires I love Him completely and follow Him. If I never do another thing for Him, He still loves me. I am still covered in His grace. Because I love Him it is my heart’s desire to never again be caught in mental strongholds which keep me from being free to follow Him.
When I began to see the rules I was taught to follow were not necessarily God’s rules, it helped me uncover the truth. My parents were trying to keep me safe, but I took it as gospel truth this is how I should act or God will think I am not a good Christian. So, I better do everything I can to make sure I’m earning my way there.
Breaking the Rules
In 2013 when I was finishing Sweet Grace, Wendy Walters, my writing mentor, advised “Get your hair done, learn to put on makeup, get your nails done and buy some new clothes. You need to feel beautiful so your inner beauty can shine.”
I was 60 years old and had lost 250 pounds, but what she was asking me to do broke all of Dad’s rules. I felt like a duck out of water but I realized it was time to break free of the constraints I had placed around myself. It was time.
Beyond my desire to follow Dad’s rules, the fear I felt in making myself more presentable is a fear thousands, maybe millions, of women feel. It’s a fear of what certain men might do to us.
Stronghold of Fear
This fear can become another stronghold. Part of that is because we don’t feel that our Father God will protect us. However, if we are sold out to Him and allow His Holy Spirit to lead us each step of the way, He will protect us.
God’s got me and you. We don’t have to follow the religious or denominational rules others place on us. Jesus invites us to follow Him. My stronghold which says I have to follow all the rules to be a good Christian is broken, in Jesus’ name.
I share more on this subject on episode 125 of Sweet Grace for Your Journey podcast, “Follow Jesus”. Find it at https://TeresaShieldsParker.com/podcast/.