If the barn needs painting…

When we think about our condition, station, or situation in life, there are many things that we simply cannot change. However, there are always some things that we can change and we should consider changing.

Consider our spiritual condition. We can change our behavior and our bad habits. We can cultivate new habits and ask God to give us the grace to change our behavior. We can put things right, seek forgiveness, make restitution, and confess our sins. We are always to be pressing on, laying hold, and gaining ground.  2 Peter 1:5-8 tells us to be diligent to add one virtue to another. We are not to stand still or stand around.

Consider our station in life. We cannot choose our parents, but we can choose to honor them better than we have in the past. We can choose our friends, and we can choose a spouse. We can decide to learn a new skill and look for a way to use our gifts. We can change our outlook and our attitude. We can change our wardrobe and change the curtains and rearrange the furniture, all for the better. We  can improve our mind by reading a book or taking a class.

God has given us dominion over the earth, so we can change the way the garden looks, pulling out the weeds and planting shrubs and trees and flowers. It’s so satisfying to see the result of our labors. God says that this is good. It is a restoration project.

But what about our own physical appearance? Can we change the way we look? Should we? God is removing every spot and blemish from His bride, so it follows that we should be doing the same thing, both spiritually and physically.

God obviously wants us to beautify and improve the world, and that includes us too. We can view some of these things the same way we view the garden: we are just pulling weeds and planting flowers. Of course, if we are changing things that God likes the way they are to things God doesn’t like, then, no, we shouldn’t do it at all. We shouldn’t make things worse! For example,  if God says a gray head is a crown of glory, then we should believe what He says. That doesn’t mean a woman should never change her hair color, but it does mean that God likes old age better than we do.

Some things we can change are simple matters that have big results, but we are often too timid to try. What would happen if we lost weight,  got our teeth straightened, took the acne medicine, and removed the facial hair? These are improvements, and these are all things we can change to make ourselves more beautiful. If these are spots and blemishes, why not change them? If the barn needs painting, paint it.

Okay, of course some of women are going to go overboard here. They’re going to rush for the breast implants and the tummy tucks. I’m not saying there is never a time for such radical measures. The point is to be a servant of God, not to play God. But generally, many of us could make big changes for the better without going to such extremes. God has given us some things we can’t change, and He has given us some things we can change.

The status quo can get very comfortable. Change can require work and expense. Getting your lip waxed or your teeth straightened is a commitment, and it may seem intimidating at first. But the end result will be that everyone will enjoy your smile much more than they ever have before.  Joining weight watchers may seem like a last ditch effort, but it makes sense to get help if you need it. So many lovely, lively women are carrying around fifty pounds of extra weight. Taking it off would seriously lighten their load and beautify them and probably prolong their life. Most of these women hate the weight, but are used to hiding under it. This is something they could change, and if not now, when?

God has given us stewardship over ourselves in many ways. We are to take heed to our souls. We are to govern our passions. We are to care for our own bodies. We are to steer, not drift. Mothers, while your children are still at home, help them with this. If you don’t talk to your daughter about these things, who will? Maybe you don’t notice it anymore, but everyone else does. And you can’t say, “Well, God made her teeth that way and it would be sin to fix them.” If that is the case, then why do we try to beautify anything? Why paint the barn or fix the broken fence?

What things can you change that need changing? Don’t wait till January 1 to make a new resolution. Why not jump on it now?

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22 thoughts on “If the barn needs painting…

  1. I often appreciate much of the wisdom displayed here, but this post definitely hit me wrong.

    I have crooked teeth myself, but as someone who has spent the last several years struggling with a chronic illness, which has meant thousands of dollars in expenses, to my chagrin, it is likely I will never have the money to straighten them.

    So, I am grateful to have friends who appreciate me in spite of the crooked smile.

  2. Thick glasses to contacts. Grew my short, practical hair cut to a shoulder length style. No longer the “loving hands made at home” wardrobe but tailored hand-me-downs. A guided exercise regime, rather than the previous hit and miss. What happened? A wonderful man chose me, loved me, made me his wife, made these little transformations possible, and my whole perspective on myself changed, as his love made me beautiful and feel like I’m beautiful to him. What a gift that fathers can give to their daughters, through showing affection,love, training, yes, but also providing opportunity–as finances allow–to give her resources for pretty hair, or to somehow give her the new front tooth, to remove the distracting wart, to help her lose the weight.

  3. Thanks, Nancy!
    After Baby 2 (and all the kind, truly well-meaning people telling me, “You’re nursing- have another brownie) I weighed more than I had when I was at my most preggers. A dear friend encouraged me to join weight watchers with her, and it has been a HUGE blessing to see that I can make little changes that make a big change. The change in weight, appearance, and wardrobe has even done a lot to change my attitude, even in just the knowledge that we CAN make changes and don’t have to settle for how things are.

  4. Hmmmm… I know this is true. It is just to what amount of expense & effort should we go. You know?
    My hair looks better when I straighten it. But, it takes me a good half hour to do my hair so it looks great. That’s a lot of time when you have a bunch of youngsters screaming at your feet…
    I’m not willing to sacrifice sleep for it. I think sufficient sleep does more for beauty & health than hair straightening.

  5. Thanks for this, Nancy! Physical beauty seems like something shallow and irrelevant to many people today who are trying not to fall into the trap of being obsessed with it! There are a lot of simple things a girl can do to improve her appearance and to be honest, losing weight is a really good one. I use the free website sparkpeople.com which is a great tool for those of us with less money.

    I think these days we’ve come to think of personal appearance as a self-centred, vanity thing when we should really be thinking of it as a way to make life pleasanter for others! Chesterton once said, a propos of Thomas a Beckett, that he wore a hair shirt under his purple and gold: he got the benefit of the hair shirt, and the peasants got the benefit of purple and gold.

    And then there’s the story I heard of an American woman newly married to a French man who was about to go to the butcher’s in her trackies. “You can’t do that!” gasped her husband. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she replied. “But think of the butcher!” he said.

  6. Thank you for this post. The title is great…my mom used to say that often and I haven’t heard it in years.
    I am getting older, and these things I know, eye cream is worth the money and it is easy to hide behind extra pounds.

  7. Thanks for this article! I have always loved that saying. I’ve run into Christian women who have pretty much said that I’m in sin for vanity by wearing a little eye shadow or styling my hair. This is usually followed by a statement about how husbands who approve of this are obviously shallow (at this point I have to pray that a guard be put over my mouth). The series that your husband recorded on Biblical femininity has really helped me to answer these women from the word rather than with my opinions.

  8. Paula, I think the gist of the message is that beauty is worth pursuing within the means at our disposal. Sometimes the smile can be made more beautiful with dental work, but if that’s not financially feasible, at least the face can always be made more beautiful with a smile. Glad that you use yours to bless those appreciative friends!

  9. Paula,
    Just to amen Valerie’s comment.The point is to get us to think about what things we could rearrange as opposed to those we can’t. The post was not meant to be negative, but positive: God let’s us change some things!That’s pretty amazing!
    Wishing you the best,

  10. Yep, I know the weight issue can be a big one, but after a couple years working on my diet (finding out about the anemia) I feel like I can finally do something about it. Since I now actually have energy (hurrah!)it’s intervals 3x a week. Intervals aren’t so much fun, but I look forward to fitting into some of those old jeans.

    Thanks for the timely post!

  11. I see that a lot of the comments above focused on the physical appearance part of this post. And that’s fine. There is much gnosticism sometimes, especially in the Reformed corner of Christianity which pulls men and women away from living robustly in all the other areas in life. So hurrah and amen!! We shouldn’t wear gunnysacks, we are daughters of the King and we should look it and it is NOT vain to say it and live it. We are dressing for our Savior, not the world.

    Having said that, I would like to comment on the underlining principle behind Nancy’s post. That is fruitfulness. Fruitfulness in our labors (in whatever God has given our hands to do: home, work, school etc.), fruitfulness in parenting our children with grace and love, fruitfulness as a wife and everything that position entails, fruitfulness regarding the state of our souls (hungering and thirsting after righteousness), fruitfulness in our relationships with other people, with our gifts and talents, the state of our home, in the meals we cook for our family and for others, finances, ministry, and yes, even our physical appearance.

    Thank you for reminding us that we are to live out the dominion/cultural mandate God gave us before the fall. And thank you for the examples of what that may look like sometimes. Thank you for encouragement in righteousness.

  12. I read “Learning in War-Time” last night, and it made me think of this post and the upcoming book Motherhood in the Trenches! I love all the encouragement I get from Femina to keep at developing gifts and talents even when I’m in the line of battle. 🙂

  13. Thanks for this post, (and for your blog in general)very encouraging and a blessing indeed. I couldn’t agree more with the idea of “If The Barn Needs Painting.”(I’m thinking of reposting on my Facebook wall if you don’t mind?)(I heard about your blog from a friend, Shana Bartlett. I understand you also know another dear friend & our church secretary Jen Carlson, small world!)God bless you & your growing family~TanaRhodes 🙂

  14. This is all such good stuff. I am grateful for the wisdom of this blog and these comments. And as such, I have a question to ask.

    I have been convicted along these same lines these last few years to “step it up” and “paint the barn” in several areas of my life. I don’t regret it at all. The Lord is faithful to strenghten and equip and convict and forgive, and it is a wonderful challenge to use this life the way he is calling me.

    However….(you had to know there would be a “however” here!)

    What is the proper response to the naysayers in our lives who will look at the fruit of these strides we are taking, and who, instead of saying “Praise the Lord” along with us, say “Oh, I hate you. You’re so perfect”? Clearly, I am a l.o.n.g. way from perfect. Way long. Way. But they see change in my/your life and maybe resent it/think it is vanity/feel jealous/feel threatened etc.

    I know that a real weakness of mine is striving for the praise of man so when I hear “Oh you make me sick” kind of comments from supposed sisters it is highly demotivating (for all the wrong reasons, granted.)

    Can you speak to this? Both, I suppose, to our tendency as women to tear each other down, and to our tendency towards doing these good changes for all the wrong reasons (or maybe that’s just me!) 🙂

    Thanks for considering this bit with me.

  15. Barbara,

    I’d venture to suggest that the best response to that sort of comment is to think the best of the person saying it: assume she’s joking and laugh along with her. I think that the vast majority of times women say things like that, it’s the feminine equivalent of a guy giving a buddy a punch on the shoulder — it’s only pretend violence, and it’s really meant to convey affection and approval. And if she’s really was being mean-spirited, you’ve applied a little gracious-hued paint to her barn door by returning kindness for unkindness.

  16. Barbara,

    I agree with Valerie. Proverbs says that “A gracious woman retains honor” so shoot for that. And remember you are called to obey the Lord, not other people’s opinions. I understand how difficult it is to get away from what others think or say sometimes, but you have to be above it. Faithfulness always brings blessings so you just do what He is laying on your conscience to do and leave the rest for Him to sort out.

  17. Thanks, ladies! Agreed on the “Laugh it off” tactic. Assuming the best of another person is a good way to go. And also agreed to be sure that I strive to use words that build up and not tear down, even in “jest”. Proverbs 26:18-19 comes to mind here. I also want to clarify that I didn’t mean to sound like a grumbler/complainer in my previous comment (as in “Wah. She hurt my feelings”…. Whining is *so* becoming!) 🙂

    Thanks for the feedback!

  18. I just want to add that (having harbored “she’s so perfect” thoughts in my heart) sometimes the person acting that way really feels insecure in her ability to grow and develop into that kind of gracious/artist/beautiful/etc woman. Underneath all the self-absorption and bad attitude there can be a lot of deeply felt brokenness and inadequacy. A little love can go a long way towards moving that person to repentance and growth.

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