For many teens, summer is the perfect opportunity to become someone completely different. The three months between your previous grade at school and the following one seems to hold a promise for a brand new start. In fact, many books and movies are centered around the idea of a teenager’s transition during the summer. Unfortunately, almost always this “growth” has to do with appearance. For example—if someone feels like a social outcast at school because of the fact that she’s overweight, she may decide to spend the summer losing pounds in order to become the kind of girl who will turn heads next fall.
No, it’s not wrong to want to get in shape, or even dye your hair a new color (with your parent’s permission, of course). But what’s your motive behind these goals?
Our culture has put much emphasis on appearance, which has caused us teenagers to believe that the only way to become likeable is to look “perfect”. However, I’ve realized that this satisfaction is only for a moment—because after a while, you’re just going to want to change your appearance again. That’s how this kind of perfection is. You’ll find something else you don’t like about yourself—such as your skin color—so next summer, you’ll make it your goal to get a darker tan. It’s an endless cycle of never being satisfied with the way you look.
“Has anyone by fussing before the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? If fussing can’t even do that, why fuss at all? Walk into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They don’t fuss with their appearance—but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.”
~Luke 12:25-27 (MSG)
There’s no point in striving so hard to change something that won’t even last. The color you dyed your hair? It’ll fade within a few months. The pounds you lost? It’s likely that you’ll gain them back eventually. You aren’t carrying your outer shell with you into eternity. So why are you trying to spend so much time dressing up something that is only here for a moment—something that won’t even bring the ultimate satisfaction that you’re searching for?
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”
~1 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)
It’s okay to want to be a “new person” when you go back to school in the fall—but instead of pouring all of your effort into changing your outer appearance which is only temporary, work on your inner appearance instead.
“It is not fancy hair, gold jewelry, or fine clothes that should make you beautiful. No, your beauty should come from within you—the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.”
~1 Peter 3:3-4 (NCV)
Since there’s almost three months without school, there is no better time than the summer to grow in your relationship with God. Here are a few ways you can become more in shape spiritually this summer:
Spend more time with God than usual—at least 30 minutes, if not more, every day. Soak yourself in His Word. Replace your television-watching time with a Bible-reading time.
Add a devotion book to your summer reading list. Joyce Meyer and Max Lucado are my personal favorite Christian non-fiction authors.
Listen to less secular music (which has the potential to make you lazy and fat spiritually) and more Christian music (which strengthens you spiritually).
Talk to God throughout the day. Make Him your focal point. God’s always with you, so there’s no need to wait until you’re in church or kneeling beside your bed before you talk to Him.
Listen to God’s voice in everything you do. Examine your behavior, and ask Him to show you if there’s anything else you should do to shape up spiritually.
If you make it your goal to improve your walk with God this summer, it is very likely that people will notice a difference in you this fall. And not only will they notice a difference—but the more that people see God in you, the more likeable and attractive you will come across as God’s reflection radiates through you.
So don’t make it your goal this summer to change your physical appearance, but your heart. Your inner beauty. Trust me, a spiritual diet will profit far more than any earthly diet ever could, and the results will be far more satisfying.
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline…And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
~Colossians 3:12,14 (MSG)
Tessa Hall is a 19-year-old coffeeholic and author of Purple Moon. She is also the editor over the faith department for Temperance Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Imagine Mag, More To Be, & Real Teen Faith. She loves acting, music, Starbucks, and her imperial Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.