Friday, March 1, 2013

The fleeting nature of the fashionably chic and the beauty that never fades

Last week we watched one of the (many) iconic films from the 1980's, 1986 to be exact, the year my husband and I both graduated from high school. While we enjoyed the comedy of the movie itself it was the stroll down memory lane that I found even funnier. The clothes, the technology, even the interior design all represented true 80's style, which, in other words, meant they were horrendously ugly and, in terms of the technology, so outdated to be hilarious.

From the shoulder pads to the ginormous cordless phones to the Waverly floral wallpaper--in every room--this movie served as a sobering reminder of the passage of time and the fleeting nature of what we deem beautiful and desirable.

A month or so ago I spent considerable time and effort repainting my dining room. I had last painted it some thirteen years ago when we first moved into this house. It was due for a repaint and I was due for a change. At the conclusion of my efforts, gone was the deep red, here to stay (for awhile) a light stone color. The funny thing is, back when I first painted the room, jewel tones were all the rage and I thought the existing pale gray a true horror of interior design.

Yes. Pale gray. The color of current interior design. Just goes to show what goes around tends to come around. Yesterday's horror becomes today's trend.

It's good to realize both our disdain for the previously fab fads (the aforementioned shoulder pads, for example) as well as the ebb and flow of these fads, a particularly wise practice in this day and age of information overload. Pinterest, Polyvore, blogs, and even Facebook and Twitter provide us with a wealth of opinions on everything trendy, and everything not, be it fashion or crafts or decorating or you-name-it. There is increasing pressure to keep up and stay "with it," whatever the current "it" may be.

These are fun pursuits, don't get me wrong. There is nothing moral or immoral about painting a dining room or pinning a super cool pair of boots. In fact, creating a beautiful home could be part of--but not the most important or even the best expression of--caring for our homes according to the Titus 2 mandate. But, as with all good things, there is potential not only to waste our time searching Polyvore for cute outfit ideas but for that very pursuit to become idolatrous.

There is no end to our capacity as humans to turn any good thing--fashion, decorating, exercising, cooking, crafting--into an idol of the heart. How can we expose this tendency within ourselves? Whether you struggle with a Pinterest problem or something totally unrelated to paint chips or proper scarf tying technique, here's some questions that may help:

  • Where am I seeking my greatest happiness? Why do I think this will make me happy?
  • How much time and money do I spend pursuing this?
  • How often do I think about this to the exclusion of other things?
  • Do I associate value judgment with this (good/bad, cute/ugly) and does that value constitute worth in my mind?
  • Does this consume my conversations with others?
  • Do I think I need this or do I merely want it?

Of course whether or not my answers to such questions constitute a dangerous and spiritually unhealthy compulsion is a matter of personal conviction. For me, the $20 skinny jeans could represent a much deeper idolatrous issue than for you. These situations, like much that is good and permissible for the believer, require self examination as I surrender to the Spirit's good work of sanctification.

For me, the best question has to do with my reaction when I don't get whatever it is I want. When other kids' Valentine's bags are more elaborate than my kids'. When my friend gets the new sofa I've been wanting for years. When the budget doesn't allow for a cute pair of leopard print flats. What then? My reaction will do much to expose either my contentment or my idolatry. In fact, an even better question may be: how will I treat those who have what I think I want? Do I treat her with bitterness or resentment or maybe avoidance? If this is my reaction then it's a good bet I have an idolatry problem.

Hear me: I am not advocating we all live austere, ascetic lives. Necessarily. I enjoy pretty things as much as the next girl but I'm also as susceptible to getting my priorities out of whack. We need to be wise both about the fleeting nature of all that the culture deems fashionably chic as well as about our propensity for idolatry. May we pursue not the kind of beauty that fades but the everlasting joy and contentment that's found only in Christ. He alone satisfies and He alone is worthy!

For a better and more thorough exploration of idolatry I highly recommend Elyse Fitzpatrick's book Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone.

1 comment:

  1. One of the biggest perks of growing older (Yes, there really are good things!) is that is becomes easier to let go of the urge to keep up with trends in fashion and home decorating.

    Although other types of discontentment seem to replace those, like the desire to travel to all the cool places, for instance. :)