We watched the last of the Harry Potter movies last week. It's been so long since we read the books that it took a while for some parts of the story to come back to me.
When Harry and Hermione returned to Godric's Hollow to visit the graves of Harry's parents and to hopefully find Gryffindor's sword, they run into Bathilda Bagshot, an old neighbor of the Potters' and a noted wizard historian. A gray-haired, dottering old woman. The kind that you imagine living on tea and biscuits, who smells like a combination of lavendar water and moth balls.
"Watch out, Mom...this part is really going to creep you out!" the kids warned me. My mind whirred, trying to remember what was so unsettling about the encounter with Mrs. Bagshot. What could possibly be scary about having tea with a feeble little old lady?
Suddenly, Bathilda's features contorted horrifically, and she shed her old-lady skin to reveal an enormous serpent. Nagini! WHAM! Voldemort's pet snake nailed Harry Potter to the wall in a lightning swift strike. Oh, yeah, I was definitely more than a little freaked out!
Have you ever known fairly certainly that something was one particular way...only to unexpectedly learn that it was actually something very, very different from what you thought? Can be kinda scary.
I have friends who dye their hair - some, more "natural" colors like brown and blonde; others, colors like pink, blue, magenta. Friends who perm, who straighten, who weave. I have friends who bleach their teeth and who wax their eyebrows. Friends who "tan" and friends who "bronze." Friends who have undergone reconstructive surgeries after car wrecks or cancer treatments. I have friends who wear dental plates. Me, I've been known to don a "compression garment." All of that stuff is designed to serve one purpose - to make us look like something we're not. Younger. Shapelier. Sun kissed. Firmer. Whatever. But none of that seems too terribly weird to me. We're still basically ourselves, right? It's not scary, like Bathilda Bagshot.
Until this week.
Hollywood celebrities undergo painful, expensive treatments and surgeries to maintain an appearance of eternal youthfulness. Ever seen those pictures of someone recovering from a facelift? Ouch! Such pain, such trauma, risk of infection, long weeks of recovery...endured not out of necessity or for reasons of health, but for the sake of vanity or for a heightened "sense of well-being."
I've never personally known anyone who went under anesthesia and under the knife for purely cosmetic reasons. At least I didn't think I did, until Sally spilled the beans.
Yeah, I knew Sally's hair was not naturally blonde, and that she didn't actually spend every day lounging on the beach to develop that fabulous tan. And, obviously, nobody has eyes that blue, unless they're wearing tinted contacts. But that figure? I assumed Sally never ate cheeseburgers or fried chicken, and that she spent at least 90 minutes every night on her treadmill before doing 500 crunches. I kind of admired the discipline I figured it took to stay in such great shape over the years. Her smooth, wrinkle-free skin? She's probably been moisturizing every day since she turned three. And drinking lots of water, right? Maybe if I'd been so diligent, I wouldn't be sitting here looking like I was overdue for a 100,000 mile tune-up. Sally, she turns heads where ever she goes. Whenever I look at Sally, I feel a sense of awe and amazement...and, I confess, a tinge of envy. Man, I wish I looked that good!
When it came out about the regular "lifts" and "tucks," the Botox and the collagen, the extracts and the implants...well, I felt stunned. Creepified. Like I'd just seen Nagini's broad, golden head lunge out of Bathilda Bagshot's mouth. Two reactions, really. First, very briefly, a sense of horror and disbelief: You're not who I thought you were! Second, a heavy sense of sadness. A selfish, silly sadness for myself, because I could never measure up to the standard of beauty modeled by my friend, with all her surgeries, treatments, and procedures. Sad for Sally, because at 60-something, she has to repeatedly endure pain and great expense to perpetuate the illusion of 30-something.
Sad because Sally is so truly beautiful on the inside, and yet she feels compelled to project and maintain this artificial external beauty. Sad, because we live in a sick and fallen world that seduces women to starve themselves and cut themselves and carve themselves into something they're not. Sad...
But so very thankful for Jesus. Thankful that He redeems us - and that He will redeem and restore even this broken, sick world. Thankful that He makes us truly beautiful, inside and out, and that we will stand in His presence one day, radiant and glorious. Beautiful - unafraid and unashamed.
4 weeks ago