The strangest compliment I’ve ever received

Can we all just sit back in agreement for one moment and nod in unison that dating stinks? Some of you reading this post are single, others are married, some are divorced, and perhaps others are widowed. Wherever you fall on the relationship spectrum, I think we all would at least agree on the fact that the dating period was/is awkward at best. Am I right? It’s the season of trying to figure out whether or not the other person really likes you. It’s the time when you’re trying to impress, all while trying to remain fully committed to “being yourself.” It stinks.

I was completely engrossed last night in one of the many books I’m reading right now, and one line in one paragraph brought a flood of memories back to my mind, memories from my dating days. I don’t know why, considering the topic of the chapter I was reading had absolutely NOTHING to do with dating, but it did say something that caused me to think back to those days I would never want to return to. Here’s my paraphrase of what I read:

“If you focused more on what is on the inside rather than what is on the outside, you’d actually be a closer version of the person you want to become.”

This is the thought that triggered this blog post: The strangest compliment I’ve ever received.”

I was a senior in college, and I found myself in a brand new relationship. Another thing I don’t miss about dating AT ALL is all the temptation that comes along with it. It’s not easy to remain pure in this sex-crazed world. Still, I was trying to, and so was this young man I was dating, but it was really easy for both of us to focus on the physical. It took no work at all. However, it was trying and far more difficult to resist it. So, we decided to make a conscious effort to compliment one another on each other’s character far more often than on each other’s appearance. Simple strategy, really.

Some of those compliments were exactly what any girl would want to here. But then, there was this one, and I bet you can imagine why these words stopped me dead in my tracks:

“I think your insides are beautiful.”

Yep, the ramblings of a hopeless romantic. Charming, right? Not exactly hot, but I knew what he was trying to say.

Fast forward to my time in the Word last night: Matthew 23—Jesus’ face to face rebuke and warning to the Pharisees. There is much to unpack in this chapter, but I want to draw your attention to just one verse.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

Yikes! I would never want to be on the receiving end of those words, but the ironic truth is that those words were directed at the most religious people of Jesus’ day. The good people. The ones who kept all the rules. The ones who appeared to sin far less than anyone else. The ones who seemed to have it all together.

But they didn’t.

And this got me thinking about the inside vs. the outside. Let me just speak to the ladies for a minute (which I imagine is the majority of my readership). We spend an awful lot of time focusing on our outward appearance. Even for those of us who might fall into the “low maintenance” category, let’s be honest. We spend a lot of time in front of the mirror. We might not walk away happy with what we see, but we do our best trying to perfect the reflection that is staring back at us.

Here’s some food for thought, though. Does the time spent on our outward appearance even compare to the time we spend working on the inward? Do we even think about the transformation of our hearts and minds that can occur when we purpose to devote time in the presence of Jesus Christ? Do we understand that the desired fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) become realities in our lives when we spend time abiding in Christ?

I hate to say it, but there are far too many professing “Christians” in this world whose outer appearance doesn’t accurately reflect their inner passions. Perhaps it’s time that we move away from the mirrors in our bathrooms and pick up the mirror of God’s Word. Because I’m after life-change, not a new hairdo. I’m after the mind of Christ, not the latest fashion. I want to be like Jesus and less like this world. You too?



“Because I’m after life-change, not a new hairdo” Wow, well said Cherie! I could put so many things in place of “a new hairdo” and this year I will. Thanks for the challenge of going deeper.

January 5, 2016 at 11:57 am

Shannon Cooper

Hi Cherie,
I know what the bible says about the outward appearance vs. lasting beauty, and I love what you’ve written, BUT, as a woman who was (and still struggle to not be) very much of this world and into her outward appearance, it might sound to some readers like you’re saying it’s ok to let the outside go to pot in effort of putting total focus of renewal of your mind and spirit through reading the Word.
I know this is not what you mean. What I’ve written is extreme. You’re talking hairdos and clothes and I’m kind of referring to health and weight.
If I look around at the women (and men) in church and bible studies, many are obese. This is sin our church mostly ignores and doesn’t address.
Thanks for the post.
Love you and your ministry.

January 6, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Cherie Wagner

Hi Shannon! You are right, that isn’t what I meant, but you make a very good and necessary point. The emphasis should be on the inward, and when that is in the right place, the disciplines of the outward should follow in appropriate measure. Does that make sense? Thanks for reading!

January 6, 2016 at 5:11 pm

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