By Kathryn Trudeau
"WHAT DID YOU GIVE UP?"
Ah, the classic conversation starter for most young Catholics every spring. But we shouldn't think of our sacrifices as some type of competition. The cross I'm called to bear is not the same as yours. We will never truly understand each other's hardships. Everyone's sufferings are a reality to them; a main reason why Jesus told us, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged." (Matthew 7:1)
During the Lenten season, we are told not to brag or boast about what we Catholics gave up sacrificially. What we give up isn't ranked from hardest to easiest because it should be the absolute hardest thing to give up, forcing you to die to your humanity, thus sharing in His divinity. Like many others, I conversed with friends over ideas of what to give up and something struck me deep in my soul. I began to think of things that pulled me away from God or maybe drove a wedge between our relationship. After much prayer, I knew I had to give it up.
They say you don't appreciate what you have until it's gone... and I agree. I agree to the fact I never truly appreciated it, but I don't agree that this thing is somehow an intrinsic good. Honestly, the withdrawal I had at first was actually surprising. I felt I never really used it that much anyways, or at least recently; therefore, giving it up wouldn't be too much of a sacrifice. This thing I realized I was dependent on at some points in my life, the thing I gave to God for roughly 40 days was makeup. Yes, this category of things actually (because we all know how many products of makeup we girls tend to accumulate), was devastating to see how attached I was in times of "need."
I consider myself to be a pretty confident individual 90% of the time, but I saw that some days I wasn't as confident if I knew all my friends were going to be dressed up, looking flawless, and there I was looking plain as plain could be. These moments of low self-esteem shook my faith and morals to the core. I appreciate the fact that makeup can accentuate my beauty, the body God generously created for me, but sometimes I take advantage and abuse the privilege. I don't even consider myself one to cake-it-on, but this Lent was very convicting. Some days my heart truly ached, acknowledging that my human-ness told me my beauty wasn't going to even compare to my friends who were all done up - even if it was just for class, not even an event. This may sound crazy, but hopefully you can understand at least just a piece of where I'm coming from.
I kept my makeup on my counter every single day as a reminder of how much time and effort I put into my appearance. All that effort wasn't made in trying to accentuate the face and beauty God gave me, but hide it. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with makeup, in general, but it can become a dangerous tool when we abuse it and manipulate our minds into thinking it's somehow going to make us truly happier.
I can tell you first hand that there were people who never treated me differently nor did they ever say the classic, "You look exhausted today. Are you okay?" We all have heard that line when we were just flat out too lazy to put any makeup on, and totally felt fine, it was just that we looked different than usual. The people who love you for your soul and not just your pretty face or toned body, those are the people who will truly love you for the rest of your life because they already can see past the mask you apply day-after-day. They see your soul as a gift to their life.
Some days I am totally content with how I naturally look, but it's been a difficult couple of weeks. Though this is what the Lenten season is. We are each called to die to ourselves countless times each day. That means we have to suffer. But suffering isn't fun, so we choose the easy way out and bargain with God. We negotiate with Him saying things like, "I can give up chocolate or soda because, sure I like it, but I don't even consume them that often." You fill-in the blank! Instead of dying to self and giving ourselves wholly to God, we decide it's more comfortable to have some leeway. But guess what? Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told us: "The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!"
How inspiring! Lent reminds us to live out the way of the Cross, and not just during Lent. God wants to evoke a deeper love for Him when we share in His suffering. Bring your wounds to the Lord. He will heal you and give you strength to expose those scars, proudly, to show your humanity and His mercy. Scars show your experience on the exterior of internal struggles. Do not be ashamed of your flaws. Embrace them. I never knew that I could suffer in such a physical and emotional way this Easter from makeup. Though, now when I look back I see how scared I was deep-down to give up the makeup. I shrugged it off like it wasn't going to bother me, but it did. I now see how deep I was in self-denial.
Christ calls you to die to Him as He died for you. So, even if that means giving up my makeup for 40 days because I need to feel the battle between flesh and spirit – then giving it up is what II must do.
So, this Lent, I'm engraving this verse on my heart: "And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is manifested in your weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Girls: Keep that makeup bag on the counter. Be reminded every day what you gave up and hold your head high. Read a verse out of God's love letters to you (a.k.a. the Bible) and see that He says: "You are altogether beautiful, my darling, and there is no blemish in you." (Song of Solomon 4:7) Your beauty is to be respected and cherish by all, so do not settle for anything less than real authentic love for yourself or from others. I pray YOU have the strength to die to yourself for the sake of He who died for you.