18 January 2011

Really Junky Junk Mail

While we first came home on furlough... wow... over 1 1/2 years and what seems like a lifetime of experiences ago... we had a nasty little "housing" problem that sent me looking for a solution... and I stepped into one of the new chain "houseware" stores (is that what you call one of those stores where you can buy just about anything imaginable and then some for your kitchen, for your bathroom, for your windows, for your bedroom...???) for the first time ever.

I found the solution for our problem and a few other items I needed (I'd left mine stored in an action packer halfway around the world and they weren't to be found in the mission house where we were living). Impressed by the size of the store and variety of items within Relieved to have found what I needed, I then promptly caved to the gal at the register giving her sales pitch encouraging me to sign up for "regular, but not inundating, emails promoting sales, deals and often including coupons." I wrote down our email address, checked the box for text only emails, and within a few days, our inbox was regularly stuffed with electronic fliers promoting sales, deals and the occasional coupon.

For the most part, I ignored the emails unless something in the subject line caught my eye - deleting them as quickly as they arrived. It became a bit more complicated last summer when we returned to the slower pace of West African life... particularly crawling internet on top of frequent power outages and telephone lines that cut in and out as the wind blows which easily interrupt internet service - and those emails served absolutely no purpose (except maybe an envious longing for what was no longer available) as the nearest location of that particular retail store was at least a few thousand miles distant.

I finally decided to "unsubscribe." I've actually done so at least 4 or 5 times. Unfortunately, I'm still receiving advertisements and promotions although the frequency is slowly decreasing.

Then an advertisement arrived this morning. This time, however, the subject line literally screamed at me - not because it enticed me to see what they were offering, but because it promotes a message I abhor, a trap I've tripped over most of my life, something I'm hoping and praying my children don't, won't ever want to, buy into...

The message found in that subject line?

"Wouldn't you rather that people talked about your OUTER beauty, too?"
(their emphasis, not mine)


was my immediate response.
"Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised." -Prov. 31:30

A few years back, Grandma and Grandpa Wright gave the kids a bunch of books and corresponding cassette tapes with catchy little songs, many based off the truths in the book of Proverbs. One of their favorites went something like this: 

Man looks on the outside. God looks on the heart.
People want us beautiful but God wants us smart!
You can wear those fancy hairstyles, be as gorgeous as can be.
But that's not what counts with God!
It's wisdom He wants to see.
Man looks on the outside. God looks on the heart.
People want us beautiful but God wants us smart!

Unfortunately, termites ate up the books and the cassette tapes, or I'd type out the entire lyrics... and they'd still be playing them, writing those truths in their hearts. For several years, I have loved listening to the kids singing biblical principles in songs like that! So when this subject line popped up in Outlook this morning, I was not only frustrated that I was still receiving notifications... I was also greatly disturbed by the message, its insidious pervasiveness as well as its insistent influence.

With ~ 
  • 6 girls growing up in this home,
  • the almost exclusive emphasis the world places on physical attractiveness, desirability and beauty for selfish goals and purposes, 
  • and the challenge it is to not only talk the truth but also walk the truth - that real beauty comes from God's Spirit within and it is forever lasting, infinitely more striking, and most importantly, more pleasing to God than surface, outward beauty,
...I really don't need extra sources promoting this train of thought, for trying to get our children to believe a message that is so counter-cultural (both in the States and in Niger)... when the opposite is so totally integrated into almost every aspect of our lives... seems well-nigh impossible! Our girls-becoming-young-woman do notice that so many (especially those boys in whom they claim they aren't interested) pay attention to the outward and seemingly neglect the inward. These girls see that often facebook praise for a new hairdo overwhelms Mom's and Dad's response to faithful help offered and household chores completed with a sweet and gentle spirit. Sporting a new dress receives numerous "Ohs!!!!" and "Ahs!!!!" followed by all sorts of compliments and questions about the tailor while teaching Sunday School results in sweaty clothes, a headache and sore throat from singing songs for 45 minutes when the sermon continues longer than what they'd prepared.

And more often than I care to admit, those girls see me spending more time fussing with my own hair, make-up and head scarf while barking orders at them to get ready or pick things up... or not so gently brushing and fixing their hair... and NOT quietly preparing my heart for the upcoming church service or sweetly serving my family as we get ready to begin a new day.

What do you do to gently live and teach this truth to your children?

How do you not only talk but walk this truth in your daily life?

Luann comic strip "Shiny on the Outside" by  Greg Evans.

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