But, we are seduced, pushing down spiritual conviction to accommodate what everyone is doing. We walk by, looking into the window at the sumptuous, anorexic ally this yet well-endowed model only to glance down hesitantly at ourselves, feeling a kind of despair. Perhaps, though, something in there will make me look more beautiful, we tell ourselves. Oddly enough, only a handful of times have I heard anyone talk publicly about whether or not a Christian woman should shop at Victoria’s Secret though I have had the conversation with a number of women in private. Most Christian women I talk to never did or don’t think about it anymore. Or I’ve heard them argue that the lingerie fits well. Okay, but it’s not as though there’s a lack of places to find intimate wear. Every major department store carries a substantial, varied, and attractive collection without such blatant soft-porn messages or invitations to compare ourselves to an impossible standard. Interestingly, the women I know who have started to think about the subject are often married and have discovered that their husbands have a pornography problem. Suddenly, this kind of catalogue doesn’t seem so neutral. Combine that with the V.S. ads on television and the annual modeling show, and one can see the philosophical motivation. At the time I stopped being able to go into the store even to buy the lotions I had used for awhile, I saw the first objection to Victoria’s Secret. It was not so much about the moral compromise involved but about the objectification of women, the woman-as-whore image that Victoria’s Secret encourages, something that has nothing to do with how God calls men to view women or women to view themselves. (de Rosset 109)
Of course, I listened intently as she rattled on, and left the classroom that day completely in silence. I began to think. Think. Suddenly, I had a breakthrough that night, as two worlds collided: Work and Identity. There I was, standing around the obnoxiously pink and white striped store that night, working the closing shift, really thinking for the first time the influence this place had on women and what then, in essence, I was promoting as being an employee. What does Victorias Secret Promote? Sexy. What is portrayed as “sexy” on these giant pictures of women all around me? Anorexia, fake boobs, sparkly bras, and basically everything that is against what God has given us to preserve and protect as valuable: our body. Don’t eat, don’t be grateful for the beautiful body that you have - instead, surgically “enhance” it to the standards of our sick and twisted world, and uncover yourself as much as is possible without being arrested for being indecent in public…and in this day and age, you basically have to be completely naked to cross that line. Victorias Secret is not alone in the retail industry in advertising the lies that our society will have women believe today about the indecency and downright disrespectfulness that we must commit to our own bodies to be deemed “sexy.” But V.S. is probably the biggest and most well known for being the standard of sexy, that women from all over want to measure up to so badly. But why? I believe it is an identity crisis. I see women come into this store day in and day out seeking to be something that they are not - hoping to be anything but what they are. They fall into the trap of the endless pursuit of defining ourselves in what we look like.
Now, I am going to take a short pause here for a moment and say this: EVERY WOMAN HAS TRIED THIS! I am not pointing out a singular woman right now, or even a type. I am saying that we are all in the same boat here ladies (can I get am amen?!)
Someone once said “until we realize that our identity is completely in Christ, we seek to define ourselves in outward expressions.” It is an amazing, maybe completely unexplainable, thing to describe what it means to say that my identity is in Christ. I went through a hard season of life back in college sometime ago, when I learned the truth about myself, and it wasn’t pretty. It was while I was working at Victoria’s Secret, just a few months before I was about to go overseas to do ministry with the Lighthouse, an organization that reaches out to the women caught in prostitution in the Red Light District of Amsterdam. But at the end of the dark valley, God finally brought to my eyes the fact that, I may not be seeking self-worth through sex or prostitution, but through the superficial image I see in advertisements that I so badly want to resemble. I am that woman. So what kind of sad gospel was I going to offer these women whom I anticipated meeting in Amsterdam, if all I had to say for who I was in Christ was hidden behind a facade of hypocrisy? Who am I? …In a way, my physical appearance had become how I sought to define myself.
Finding ones identity in Christ is an act of complete obedience and surrender; realizing that you are giving up the control of your life, or the control that you think you have anyway. It is also a willingness to trust; to trust in His plan for your life, and to trust that He will provide for every single day of that plan. Don’t ask me why, but after that I impulsively cut my long blonde locks off and traded them in for an extremely short hairdo. When I looked in the mirror for the first time at the end of this learning season, I realized there was no hiding …I felt exposed. God has used my lack of hair to show me sort of a symbol or reminder of what my identity rests in. My hair and looks do not define me, my identity is found in Christ alone, who gives me confidence in the beauty of the transformation He has done in my life. In the Bible, God sent the message to His people through the prophet Zechariah that He would "refine them like silver and test them like gold" (13:9). This is painful process sometimes, that involves feeling utterly exposed, but this is what He promises: "They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" No, my conscience would not allow me to work at the elusive Victoria’s Secret anymore, so I quit. But I quit knowing that the Lord would provide for my bills that I didn’t know how I was going to pay, He would provide for my future that I constantly stressed over, and He would be faithful to answer me in my distress, because I know that I am God’s - and He is always faithful to His people.
I would like to end this (extremely long and rather “chatty”) account of my life by simply saying that I know we are all at a different point in our spiritual journeys. I am not going to look down on you for buying underwear at a certain store, that is your decision (and I willingly admit that I love some of Victoria’s Secret’s bras)…but I would hope that anyone reading this would be encouraged to think about why they do the things they do. I am not defined by where I buy my underwear, but by a God who demands obedience and trust in Him. But if you are representing the King of all kings, you better be careful choosing who to stand behind on this earth and how you display yourself. So I leave you with this quote from the book written by one of my favorite professors that I spoke of earlier: To be a Christian woman of dignity, a woman must know who she is before God; she must have dealt thoughtfully with her personhood and made decisions about who she will be. Dignity is a strong, chosen, deliberate way of life, the result of the totality of a persons choices and worldview. (de Rosset 24)