I have a friend who seldom wears makeup. She likes to keep her face as natural as possible. But whenever she does wear makeup, she looks glorious and radiant; there’s something about makeup that can illuminate the beauty of those who wear them. I am all for people feeling very beautiful and confident in makeup. Every time I walk by the makeup section at Macy’s and see all the ladies in their makeup, I am reminded of the cliché ‘Beauty can be purchased at the store. I believe that if wearing makeup can cover something or illuminate your beauty, then go for it.
As you may well know, makeup is big business; the market value of makeup runs into the billions of dollars. I wonder how people keep up with all the different brands. There are so many that I dare not list some and offend those whose favorite brands are left out, but I am sure you get the picture. We like to look beautiful, and so we invest in beauty. We like to appear pleasant, and so we spend on the things that will help us look pleasant. We like to look attractive, and so we splurge on the things that create the comfort of attraction. And we like our faces to look spotless and so we invest in the things that will cover the spots on our faces.
Trust me - I see nothing wrong with wearing makeup nor do I have a problem with it. However, the more I think about makeup, and the extent to which we use it to cover our faces, or helps us to look more beautiful and pleasant than we really are, the more I tend to think about the extent to which we hide our flaws or even commit our sins under the cover of darkness. We like to hide our sins and so we commit them when no one is watching. We like to cover our sins so no one truly knows who we are, what we have done, and the extent to which we can go with our sins.
There’s this sense of shame that we feel when we sin. But the tragedy is that not only do we try to cover up so no one sees our sins, but we act as if the Omniscient God who sees the darkness of our sins doesn’t even see them. Remember the story of Cain and Abel, where Cain murders his brother Abel. When God asked Cain about the whereabouts of his brother, Cain responded thus: “I do not know: am I my brother’s keeper?” Well, how could he be? Prior to that, Adam and Eve, parents of Cain and Abel, had tried to cover their sins by hiding themselves among the trees in the Garden of Eden-as if God couldn’t see them.
If you have not as yet read Psalm 139, I implore you to do so. It is such a beautiful psalm that reminds us that no matter how hard we try and how far we go, we cannot go away from the presence of God. The Lord knows us. God knows who we are. God knows where we’ve been. God is acquainted with all our ways - it is He who knit us together. God knows each and every one of us.
And so, if we cannot hide from the God who is everywhere, then we shouldn’t even dare attempt to cover our sins. We should appear before God, just as we are - no makeup, nothing. Just the way we are. You cannot be any different from who you truly are and no amount of makeup is enough to cover you or your sins.
There’s a story about Oliver Cromwell who was known as the “Protector of England.” He was a military commander who led the armies of Parliament of England against King Charles I during the English Civil War. As Lord Protector, he also acted as the head of state and head of government.
It was common practice during those days for people of importance to have their portraits painted. And it wasn’t unusual for an artist to avoid depicting the less attractive aspects of a person’s face.
Cromwell, however, wanted nothing to do with a likeness that would flatter him. He cautioned the artist, “You must paint me just as I am—warts and all—or I won’t pay you.”
Apparently, the artist complied. The finished portrait of Cromwell displays a couple of prominent facial warts that in the present day would surely be filtered or airbrushed before being posted on social media or hanged in an office building.
Cromwell’s expression “warts and all” has come to mean that people should be accepted just as they are—with all their annoying faults, attitudes, and issues. And that is precisely how our relationship with God and with each other should look and sound like.
In a way, that is the invitation of Lent.
Lent is a period of renewal. Lent brings us back to the place where we have long desired to be. Lent helps us to wipe clean all the makeup that makes us feel other than who we truly are. Lent creates the space for us to accept ourselves just as much as we accept others for who they are. Lent is a period devoid of any and all makeups-just pure, original, authentic you and me.
If you so yearn for that authentic self, the one you terribly miss, allow the blood of the Lamb to wash all the makeup so you can see yourself in just the same way that you want us to see you.
Allow your makeup to be washed with hyssop.