Famous for its golden beaches and golden sunsets, California is known as the Golden State. To live here it’s practically a requisite to have a golden tan. But as a fair-skinned redhead, I’ve always wondered why God chose for me to be born and raised in one of the sunniest places on earth.
No stranger to severe sunburns, I found it impossible to fit in while growing up.
When all my friends lounged by the pool, I took cover in whatever shade I could find, which usually meant I was by myself. So I went to great lengths to defy my God-given design.
One time I saw a commercial for Coppertone Sunless Tanning Cream. I thought I had found the best invention known to man. This was back in the ’80s, though, and the formula was still in the “research and development” stage. The directions said to leave the cream on my legs for no more than twenty minutes. But since I am really, really white I figured I better leave it on longer.
So I carefully spread a towel across my bed, liberally applied the lotion from toe to head, and negligently proceeded to take a long nap instead. When I woke up, I ran to the bathroom mirror to discover a hideous discoloration overtaking me like some alien life form.
Needless to say, I’ve tried it all, and believe me, nothing works. It’s just not in the genes. I’m condemned to an endless cycle of burn-peel-freckle.
It’s easy to spot me on the beach too. While it’s hard to find any clothing at all on other girls, it’s not hard to find the oddball wearing long pants, hiding under a giant umbrella. (I’m convinced the beach is overrated.)
Apparently, Esther didn’t have the same problem fitting in that I did.
Although her lineage bespoke a Jewish heritage, it must not have been obvious simply by looking at her. Since Mordecai specifically instructed Esther to keep her Hebrew origins a secret, we can reasonably surmise that she must have looked enough like everyone else to easily blend in.
Despite this, Esther did stand out in a crowd, but not because of her differing nationality, and not because of her physical beauty either. There was something special about her.
Esther had a demeanor and a presence unlike any other because of the spirit within her.
She possessed the kind of beauty that Peter wouldn’t describe for another five centuries:
Don’t let your beauty consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and wearing gold jewelry, but rather what is inside the heart — the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4)
Something invisible made Esther visible.
Something from within her shone without.
Everyone around her could see she was special, even if they couldn’t articulate what that something special might be. When Esther was present, an unmistakable presence was too. In the same way, we are called to take the light of Christ with us everywhere we go. Such faith is “of greater worth than gold” (1 Peter 1:7).
Is the presence of my faith as obvious as my presence on the beach?
I pray that, wherever I go, my faith glows brighter than any golden tan.Leave a Comment
Michele Morin says
No golden tan on this girl either, and the “gentle and quiet spirit” doesn’t come naturally either. However, I’m living my way into an acceptance of the person God created with this particular skin and this particular set of challenges in manifesting the “imperishable beauty.”
Thanks be to God for His patience and unfailing perseverance!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I had to chuckle because I don’t tan either….basically I’m waiting for all the freckles and age spots to connect and I’ll have that brown as a berry glow lol. I do believe that God loves a humble and contrite heart and it has taken years for Him to smooth off some of the rough edges. Even though I may have bat wings, wrinkles, and my own personal “inner tube” around my abdomen, I have to say I feel more comfortable in my skin now, at 56, than I did when I was 20. I think it’s because I love the Lord and I know that He loves me and the reflection of that love has an undefinable beauty. Sure, I still try to look my best at times, but I’m not caught up in the what the world thinks. Life is a lot easier living it to an audience of One. Thankful that the Lord looks on the heart and not the outer appearance. As always, love your posts!
Also, an unsolicited shout out for Denise’s book coming out Sept 1. “Deeper Waters” is a must read for anyone who has ever struggled with reading God’s Word. Denise shares her personal struggles to overcome her own doubts about God’s goodness and how stepping into His Word has had a life transforming effect on her. She shares her love story with the Lord as an invitation for us to go deeper into His Word and find our own personal love story waiting. Even those who have been in the Word for years can find encouragement and challenge in her wonderful book. It’s truly a book for everyone who wants a closer walk with the Lord.
“Life is easier living it to an audience of one”….I want to engrave that on my conscience! This speaks to me. LOUDLY.
Thank you for a reminder that I need every single day.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I’ve been engraving that upon my conscience for a long time now and it many respects it has helped me cut through a lot of the garbage….if you know what I mean! Joining with you in living only unto God 🙂
Beth Williams says
I can so relate to your response. You gave me a chuckle talking about yourself. Loved the idea of an audience of one. Praying for you and your family!
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
Your prayers have been so heard and felt!! I’ve spent some really nice time with my son lately that several years ago I would have never thought possible. God is good and God answers prayers!
Thank you sweet friend for your continual encouragement,
Right on, Denise!
Ashley M says
Wow… Loved this! This is a constant struggle as I deal with “that skin”. It’s hard in this world especially with a vain small town I live in that believes everyone needs to be tan and having a mother who dresses to a tee with her sunbed & layout at the pool tan …. my desire is to be dressed comfy (plus I’m over weight 🙁 …) & to be a fun Jesus loving girl that anyone can enjoy being around – but wearing shorts & people cracking jokes at my white legs with liver spots really is hard … the sun scares me after a scare with skin cancer & i tend to freak out (on the inside) when I see a spot on me, my hubby or daughters & I seem to live in fear constantly of skin cancer … I know the Lord loves me as is and my husband does too but I sort of grew up in a judgemental atmosphere & it’s just really hard to push it all aside…but I’m saving this devotion as a reminder … I need live more for an audience of ONE!
Oh, Denise, I can totally relate. Fair skin and brown/auburn hair pretty much relegated me to the shade (and 150 spf sunscreen :->). I remember getting teased in the summer and dreaming of a tan, but The Lord helped me to be comfortable in my own skin (fair and freckled as it is) . I have my bad days, but God is faithful, and I’m hanging my floppy hat on that. 🙂
I, too, have to echo how awesome Denise’s upcoming book “Deeper Waters” is. Denise, your transparency in your struggles is so inspiring to me, and my life is richer for reading your words. Your love for Jesus is infectious, and I thank you for that and appreciate you more than I can express in words.
Kathy Cheek, Devotions from the Heart says
“The presence of my faith” – those are convicting words that I want to ring true in me, please God, let others see You in me, that is the kind of beauty I want!
Oooh, I want to be an Esther, too. Lovely observation, Denise. ((hug))
Theresa D'Auria says
I’ve never lived in California, however I know what it like to get sun burnt and not get any tanned skin color. I always wore a baseball cap in the summer to protect my face from sunburn and stayed out of the sun as much as possible.
But I always loved to play baseball and ride my bike . Since we had a big family we would play either early in the morning and later in the evening when the sun wasn’t too bright and less traffic in the street. We would play until the streetlight came on or our parents called us all home for the night .
We had a great childhood without any worries about strangers or violence in the neighborhood.
The Midwest was a great place to grow up. May God’s love protect all the children in our communities to grow up safely and securely in God’s love.
Caryn Christensen says
Well my friend, you may not tan, but the Light of Jesus definitely shines through you brightly! I’m excited for the release of your book, “Deeper Waters”, so that others can find the love (and acceptance) of Christ through His Word! <3
Edna Davidsen says
Loved reading A Presence Unlike Any Other.
I can relate to your thought on being born in California, one of the sunniest places on earth. I’m from the Philippines myself. We also have much Sun and in our culture, we don’t jump out into the Sun. If it’s too much we use a umbrella, just as you took cover in whatever shade you could find 🙂
What a horrible experience you had with your Sun lotion 🙂
I’m not too much to the beach, just like you, although I enjoy swimming when I have the opportunity.
I love 1. Peter 3:3-4 about not seeking value in outwards thinks, mostly because they won’t last.
My favourite part of this particular blog post was the end: I pray that, wherever I go, my faith glows brighter than any golden tan. Beautiful!
I’ll share your blog post next week!
Lynn D. Morrissey says
Well, this literally made me smile, because I’ve literally just returned from my annual visit to the dermatologist, and was telling my husband that Dr. B says everyone should wear an SPF 30 *daily* on her/his face (at least). I protested, because I told her I don’t often go out in the sun because, like you Denise, I’m fair, and I burn. She said even short trips to the car and walks around the block truly count. I’m putting this in writing (though it’s not the ultimate subject of your lovely devotional), to alert other women. Sun dramatically damages skin with wrinkles (and far worse, with cancer). Sometimes the damage isn’t seen for years. And what of our souls? You are describing a women with a golden soul. That was evident immediately to those whom she encountered. And God used her incredible courage to save her people. But I’m thinking that that golden state of Esther’s was cast over a period of years of godly training by her cousin Mordecai. Our spiritual growth takes time. Learning to be gentle takes time (at least for someone like me . . . and I am far from being there, but I long to be.) As you say, it doesn’t come naturally. But it *is* possible, as we immerse ourselves daily in God’s Word and prayer. That’s what your beautiful new book, Deeper Waters, is all about. I can’t tell you how much I am enjoying it and learning from it. I read Golden books as a child, but this is a GOLDEN book worth its weight in gold, because you are teaching us to mine exquisite gems from the greatest Book of all. It’s my prayer that as I saturate my spirit in His Word, He will change me more, day after day, till I stand in the radiance of His golden glory, face to face. I so appreciate you and your message, Denise.
Thank you. This speaks volumes to me. …and my fair Irish skin too!…yep, with skin cancer and more looming. My bff growing up here in California was an olive skinned beauty. I spent too many hours getting fried with baby oil on the beach in order to be an acceptable white girl in sunny So. Cal. I’m reaping. I love your msg.
As another red haired, fair skinned, never to tan woman – I highly recommend uv clothing 🙂 Lands End has lovely swim dresses that can be worn on the beach and uvskinz.com sells fantastic shrugs. On a recent trip to NC I added swim leggings to my -avoid the sun but have fun- arsenal. With a floppy hat and completely covered from head to ankle you CAN have fun in the sun at the beach 🙂
Esther and Ruth are both wonderful examples of Godly women, their desire to serve God and others rather than putting themselves first is convicting in our me first culture. I’m finding the only way to counter the non stop voices of our selfish culture is to surround yourself with Godly advisors/mentors and delve deeply and daily into God’s word.
Beth Williams says
I’m not much of a beach person myself. Love getting into water to swim or go inner tubing down the lake. Loved this:
“I pray that, wherever I go, my faith glows brighter than any golden tan.” Tanning is over rated and can cause caner. I, like Bev, am
Comfortable in my own skin at 52. Don’t care what the world says I should do or be. I care how God views me. I want an inner spirit that Esther had. It is more important that the world see Jesus shining through me. I want to spread His love any way I can.
Rebecca L Jones says
I like being fair. Movie stars wore floppy hats and cover up in the old days. We’re not all going to look like we live in the tropics, it just feels like it in Ga. Inner beauty radiates.