Monday, December 17, 2007

An Interview with Ginger Garrett: Desiring Beauty, Wanting to be Loved

I've met a woman named Ginger Garrett who has carved a niche in ancient women's history. She co-hosts the cable television show Deeper Living, has authored six books and in the last few months has championed my book, Ruby Slippers. Read her review of Ruby Slippers on her blog (Fri, Nov 9).

I met Ginger through an email correspondence, where she proved to be a great source to investigate that interesting connection between women, beauty and God. She knows our hunger for beauty, our lack of satisfaction with our own bodies.

A Unique Voice

But here’s where Ginger stands apart from other Christian speakers and secular speakers. Ginger values the beauty secrets that affect both the soul and the body. She is my source for new skin care ideas (like honey-Wed Oct 17) and high boots that are customized for each women's calves (Wed Nov 21)). She’s also my source for the history of women’s beauty treatments of the Bible. Her recent book, Beauty Secrets of the Bible, is available from her website. You might enjoy finding out by listening here that Biblical women had glitter eye-shadow, too. They weren’t quite as backward as we often think!

I caught up with Ginger to ask her some questions about the intersection of physical beauty and spirituality.

Interviewing Ginger

Hi Ginger! You once told me that there is a spirit/beauty connection. That piqued my interest. What sort of connection have you noticed in your writing and speaking to women?

Ginger: Americans spend about 150 billion on our appearance annually; that’s more than the government spends to cure AIDS, breast cancer, prostate cancer and diabetes combined. Yet, only 2% of American women would call themselves beautiful. We’re spending large sums of money to pursue something we don’t seem to ever actually get. This tells me the hunger for beauty is, indeed, spiritual, and cannot be satisfied with purchased products.

Have you found women who seek for beauty to also be more open to God? Why do you think that is?

Well, beauty is hard to define, isn’t it? It’s as much about a feeling as it is an appearance. It’s curious that the Bible references many beautiful women, and yet never describes what any of them look like. Even there, I think God’s message is that there is no one expression of His beauty. Diversity is His signature.

So the pursuit of beauty challenges every woman’s faith at some point. Is she, too, a wonderfully different expression of beauty? She must decide if she can love herself as she is, if she will be “enough.” That’s a scary risk to take, and prompts the natural question: do I trust God?

You mentioned that there’s a fabulous, but under-taught, story connected to the Exodus that talks about women and beauty. What is this story?

Ginger: When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, the men would go out and labor in grueling conditions, being whipped and treated like dogs. Jewish rabbis teach that the women used their beauty to “rescue” the men from the effects of slavery.

When men returned at night from the inhumane treatment, their wives greeted them looking like brides, sweet-smelling and lovely, without speaking a word, the women communicated to the men that they were honored, loved men, not worthless slaves.

Of course, God freed the people from slavery. But we see beauty re-surfacing in Exodus 38:8. When the time came to construct the first Tabernacle for God, the women donated their mirrors. The mirrors were a symbol to the women that their physical beauty had been used to honor God and defy evil.

I love the way you’ve given me new eyes to see the mirror donation as a way the women honored their God. It’s so different from what I have grown up believing, that mirrors are stumbling blocks and quick roads to vanity. I looked up Exodus 38:8 in my Bible and I had scribbled a sermon note into the margin. It read “women sacrifice vanity for a pure object.” How would you defend your interpretation if someone were to say that there is no “proof” that women were using these mirrors to honor God and defy evil?

Ginger: Like many sacred points of interest in Scripture, there is no further biblical teaching on the text. I rely on both Jewish midrash, (the traditional teachings of the Jewish faith) and what we know about this time in Israel’s history. They were leaving captivity in Egypt, a culture that venerated beauty and spent a great deal of their time and money cultivating it.

So the Israelite women were being set free from a culture that had enslaved them, a culture that worshipped physical beauty but not Yahweh. We can imagine that living in “the land of beautiful people” had only heightened their awareness of their own appearance.

That reminds me of the culture in most urban centers, where you must get "dressed up" to go shopping at the mall. I can see how the Egyptian culture could have been worked into the Hebrew women’s worldview and what a meaningful sacrifice the mirrors would be.

Ginger: Whether we rely on Jewish historical teaching, or simply apply common sense, we are left with the haunting image of women escaping this slavery who worshipped God by giving away their mirrors. The symbolism is rich and empowering, and I don’t believe it could be coincidental that this act was specifically called out in Scripture.

In our weight-obsessed culture, imagine if every woman on your street donated her scale so that the materials could be salvaged for building churches and shelters across the world. It would change the face of our culture and immediately put body image into its proper perspective. This is, in effect, what I believe the Israelite women did, and I can only imagine how sweet that final freedom tasted.

I like the parallel of donating scales. Even today, though, a “fast from mirrors” can be so helpful. When I’ve taken up that fast, even for only 24 hours, it has made a difference in how I view myself, other women and God.

What would you say is the reason women hunger to be beautiful? Do you find men hungering for this, too?

Ginger: A study was done by Joan Jacobs Brumberg comparing the diaries of Victorian girls to the girls of today.

In the Victorian Age, young girls believed the path to love and fulfillment was to be found in Christian deeds and morals. Appearance was downplayed in comparison to character. Today, Christian character is not the universal standard for gaining acceptance. As a result, girls funnel all their energy into their appearance, and a new generation of women dissatisfied with their appearance emerges.

Beauty is ultimately a quest for love. We think if were beautiful, we’ll be loved. When we’re standing at the cosmetics counter, we’re really trying to buy a feeling, not a product. That’s why we feel euphoric to find the perfect face cream, and six weeks later are scouting for a new one again. The high doesn’t last, and the cosmetics companies know this.

What we really want is lasting proof that we’re loveable and acceptable.

Men want this reassurance, too, of course. The pressure used to focus on their ability to provide a standard of living for women. Now women can provide our own finances, and we’re seeing men attacked more and more for their appearance. We’re seeing everything from calf implants to instant abs through liposuction, plus diet plans and “manscaping.” Poor men! They will rue the day we invented body wax!

1 comment:

ashten said...

wow... i really like this....
usually, i hear people who write things like this just to give them an excuse to be materialistic, but this certainly puts a new twist on things!!!!! beauty is so many things: a gift, a feeling, a tool even to help others i.e. the women would get fancy for their husbands in Exodus to reassure them. very nice. i like it!!!!