Global Hunger Fast Day 2: A Crown of Beauty

Posted: April 18, 2011 in Life in the Philippines
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I woke up this morning knowing that today’s post would be about vanity, and wondering how I’d ever be able to write about something that  I felt embarrassed to admit.  Here in Manila, where the heat and humidity mean that my hair is always awry and my skin always sweaty (and where I wear only simple, modest clothes), a little mascara and lipstick go a long way to making me feel okay.  This Global Hunger Fast has called forth all of my petty insecurities: I wonder if people notice my unstyled hair, colorless face, and squinting eyes—or if I smell (since deodorant, at $2 or more, is out of the question).

But vanity is a luxury.  I realized this one day when one of the Samaritana women asked me how much I paid for a tube of lipstick that I got back in the States.  I told her I’d paid $3 for a cheapo grocery store brand.  Her response was, “mahal!”  Expensive.  On a training day, the Samaritana women earn a daily allowance of 190 pesos—about $4.  That’s better than the $2/day that many of them had before they came to Samaritana—but not much, especially when you consider that most of them have children, and some of them have jobless partners. So I get it now: that $3 purchase suddenly feels frivolous.

I’ve been thinking about all of the things we women do to try to make ourselves feel beautiful.  At one time in my life, it wouldn’t have been unheard of for me to pay somewhere in the range of $100-150 for a haircut and highlights at a salon.  A handful of department store makeup? $100 or more.  Here in Manila, I’ve occasionally indulged in a manicure or pedicure, which is cheap here (100 pesos).  But the new Global Hunger Fast Me who lives on 90 pesos a day (per person) could hardly imagine trading food for nail polish.

The truth is that for most of my life I’ve suffered from comparison.  Sure, I know that God loves me and that I’m worth something because He says I am . . . but that’s not how I live.  I’ve spent years comparing myself—to friends, to movie stars, to women in magazines—and always came up short.  I’ve spent hundreds of dollars trying to satisfy my vanity—in vain.

Today was the first of a two-day Lenten retreat for Samaritana staff and volunteers.  We spent much of the day in silent contemplation, and I asked God to help me with my lifelong obsession with vanity.  Meditating on the days leading up to Jesus’ death, I closed my eyes, saw myself there among the crowd, and was horrified to realize that I was joining in the cries to crucify him.  He looked at me with pure love, longing, and forgiveness, and I saw that the more he suffered, the more beautiful I became.

All at once I was reminded of my name: Laura.  Crown of beauty.  When I was young, I hoped that this meant I was beautiful, but today I felt God say to me that I was his crown.  How could I have missed this all of these years?  While I was trying to live up to the world’s impossible standards, all along God was asking me to be his crown, telling me that my beauty was there to glorify him, to point people to him.  I started to cry.  I was touched and humbled that God should choose me as his crown, and for the first time in my life, I felt beautiful.

Daily Tab:

Breakfast (split between the two of us)
10 pesos for 1 mango
10 pesos for 3 small bananas
5 pesos for 1 egg
12 pesos for 4 small rolls

26 pesos for bus to Samaritana (13 per person)

Lunch at Samaritana (30 pesos/person)
A simple meal of rice and soup with fish
1 banana

Dinner at Samaritana (30 pesos/person)
A simple meal of fried fish, rice, and lentel soup
1 mango

Daily Total: 183 pesos (realized too late that we were 3 pesos over—not including using the internet at Samaritana to post this)

  1. hilary says:

    Love this: “and I saw that the more he suffered, the more beautiful I became.” I love that your voluntary Holy Week suffering is truly identifying you more with Christ.

    • jen says:

      Ditto to that. You’re living out Phil. 3 by considering the things of this world “rubbish,” that you may gain Christ and be found in him. You are discovering the power of his resurrection, the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, and becoming like him in his death. It’s hard to know how we (as in ‘I’) can do this while living in the developed, Western world.

      • freeisaverb says:

        Thanks, Jen. This is great encouragement. And I think you’re right that in some ways, it’s tougher to do this in the Western world. We observed on Sunday that most of our friends and family back home wouldn’t have even been able to go to church, because they’d spend $2 on gas just getting there and back. Even here there are ways we can’t fully duplicate the experience (e.g. if we lived on $2/day, we wouldn’t be at a Samaritana retreat right now). But it’s been good to make the effort, and while we may not be very good at it, we’re learning.

    • freeisaverb says:

      As always, thanks for reading and commenting, Hal. It means a lot.

  2. nicole says:

    Thanks for sharing! So moved by the way God has spoken to you.

    • freeisaverb says:

      Thanks so much, Nicole! It means a lot to have you and the other small group girls read this. You guys saw me through all of these insecurities, and can appreciate how significant God’s work in my life is this week! Thanks for reading and commenting!

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