Babbling Beauty Queens: What Miss Utah’s “Epic Failure” Teaches Us About the Gospel of Christ

And the 2013 Miss USA is . . . Yep, that’s right. As an ex-pageant girl, I thought it was only appropriate that I briefly address last Sunday night’s Miss USA pageant on ABC. Miss USA and Miss America are the “Superbowls” of pageants, so don’t judge me, I had to watch (It’s like my husband feeling the need to watch every single NCAA basketball game during March Madness – even when UK is not playing).

With that being said, I have to say congrats to Erin Brady (Miss Connecticut) who won this year’s crown in Las Vegas. However, being a pageant expert (giggles), I was thoroughly convinced that Miss Utah – Marissa Powell – had it in the bag. She was breathtakingly beautiful (at least on the outside, of course I don’t know her heart). Like I tell my little 3 year old girl on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter if you are beautiful on the outside if you have an ugly heart on the inside.

Nevertheless, the stunning Miss Utah seemed to have the complete package, and as the pageant drew to an end, she was the clear favorite to win. Then it happened – one of every pageant girl’s worst nightmares (right up there with tripping in her high-heel shoes as she struts across stage in her 2-piece). It was the ever-important “final question” – the chance to either seal the deal, or crash and burn. Unfortunately, for Miss Utah, it became what one blogger is calling the “epic fail,” and what The New York Post is calling a “painfully awful pageant answer.” Perhaps these are both grossly-gracious understatements.

The question: “A recent report shows that in 40 percent of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does this say about society?”

The Answer: “I think we can relate this back to education, and how we are continuing to try to strive to (l…o…n…g…e…s…t “pause” . . . . ever) figure out how to create jobs right now. This is the biggest problem. And I think, especially the men are…umm…seen as the leader of this, and so we need to try to figure out how to create educate better so we can solve this problem. Thank you.”

This is where I buried my head in a pillow in utter defeat. First and foremost, I hated it for her (and hurt for her), but additionally, this meant that once more I failed to pick the winner, and my husband (once more) did pick the winner (no, I don’t let him watch the swimsuit portion of the competition).

Anyway; wow! The answer to the final question was definitely an “epic fail.” However, to be fair, in order to have made it into the top five she had to have had a good interview in the preliminaries. So, although she sounded like a babbling idiot on stage, she had to have been great in the preliminary interview. Regardless, the poor girl is being ridiculed for having a brain fart on stage (sorry mom, I know you have taught me better). The fact is, we all have brain farts, and in my case, I have them on a fairly consistent basis (if you saw my grammar before I hit “spell check” on this, you would agree). It actually reminds me of a time when I was competing for Miss Illinois. A judge asked me why I was going to go to college in Kentucky. My answer: “I am just sick of Illinois and I can’t wait to get out. I need something different.” Now that was an epic fail (and no, little to your surprise, I did not win that pageant). So, we all have these moments, but the difference is most of us won’t ever be put in the position of having such an embarrassing moment in front of millions of people on national television.

Thus, my heart goes out to Miss Utah and all the other girls that were “rejected” last night. You may not know this, but it is hard work being a pageant girl. Getting yourself prepared to prance around on stage with the goal of having a panel of judges come to the conclusion that you are the most beautiful girl in the room . . . hard work (and yes, as I’ve confessed in previous blogs, such a desire and ambition CAN BE prideful – a pride for which I’m thankful the blood and grace of Jesus is sufficient to forgive).

But yes, it’s hard work. There are LOTS of hours in the gym. LOTS of volunteering and appearances (gotta build that resume). LOTS of dietary restrictions (my poor husband struggles with our current eating habits; he wouldn’t have lasted a week with me back in the pageant days). For example, I always gave up eating pasta and bread – getting hungry just thinking about such inhumane restrictions. Then, there was the interview training (learning how not to stumble over your words in front of millions of people). LOTS of money on dresses (and in some cases, various types of “physical enhancements”). It was work! This all ultimately culminates into “the big show.” There are fifty-one beautiful women that have sculpted bodies, perfect hair, and teeth as white as Chiclets. There is glitz and certainly glamour, but everything comes down to the final question. For Miss Utah, the final question sent her soaring (or flailing) into 3rd place – depending on how you look at it:)

How devastating to spend hours upon hours of your life on a dream, only to go home without a crown.

Similarly, some of us are working very hard at being “good.”

“If I am just good enough, God will love me.” However, the Scripture teaches, “no one is good” (Romans 3:11), and that certainly no one can be “good enough.” There is only one person that ever has or ever will be good enough, and that person is Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the “good” news is, He died for your sin. This is a mysterious beauty – the beauty of Christ. God came to earth and took upon flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. He is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus, although He had no sin, laid his body against a rugged cross. There, his flesh was torn, his side was pierced, and his body was beaten. Why? For our sin, and surprisingly, for our alleged “good deeds” – the “good deeds” of which we learn in Isaiah 64:6 that even the most “righteous” of those deeds are merely as “filthy rags” in comparison to the righteousness and holiness of God).

Nevertheless, this is Beauty – that the spotless One dies for the spotted ones; that the Righteous One died for the rebellious; that the Holy One dies for the heinous; that God would die for man. Ultimately, we see in the Gospel that Jesus did not die for us because we were lovely, but Jesus died for us to make us lovely – the kind of lovely that doesn’t come from make-up, ab crunches, and plastic surgery – but the kind of lovely that comes from the crimson red blood that flowed from the side of the Son of God.

Pageants will always have judges. Likewise, there is going to be a final day when we will stand before our Judge, a perfect Judge – a Judge against whom each of us have sinned deeply. A judge not impressed by “the show;” a Judge that looks not at the outside, but at the heart. When this Judge looks at us, He’s not looking for a list of rules kept, laws obeyed, and good deeds performed. Rather, He is looking for pure righteousness – a righteousness that must come from outside of us, a righteousness that comes only from Christ. Do not be like the Pharisees, whom Jesus said are, “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to brothers, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Speaking of Judgment Day, Jesus says in Matthew 7:22f, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ and then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you worker of lawlessness.’” On the great and dreadful Day of Judgment, will you say, “I have been so good! Where is my crown? Aren’t I worthy?”

This is futile, hopeless, and preposterous. If we say such words, we will sound like a babbling idiot. However, the good news is that Jesus came for such idiots (idiots such as me, myself, and I). Jesus came for the babbling, the weak, the downtrodden, the hurting, and the outcast. He came for the people that don’t have it together. Jesus “had it together” perfectly for 33 years, because He knew that we couldn’t. Then, He shed his blood for us. Now, the invitation is open for any of us: that we can turn from our “good deeds,” self-reliance, and self-righteousness; that we can turn from ourselves, and trust in Him. Pageants and crowns are inseparable. Likewise, Christians are inseparable from the matchless love and grace of God. God redeems our life from the pit, and crowns us with steadfast love. Won’t you rest in His love and stop trying so hard?

How many of us are striving so hard to “stay on God’s good side,” and working so strenuously so that someday He’ll judge that we’ve done enough? We put on our spiritual makeup and talk the spiritual lingo. We do are devotionals and pray and try being the best mom, daughter, friend, etc. But it’s just so stinking exhausting! If we are honest sometimes we wonder, “Why am I doing this? I should be perfect by now!” Recently, I overheard my son tell his father, “but mommy doesn’t know how to play (speaking of basketball).” Have we forgotten how to “play” and enjoy the small things? Playing doesn’t seem as spiritual as working. I want to live a life that is characterized by a restful enjoyment (on occasion rightly likened unto “playing”) in the presence of my Father, all the while enjoying all that He has given me. We must remind ourselves daily that He doesn’t love us because we’re good girls; rather, He loves us because we’re His girls.

Rest in Christ. We are able rest in Christ, because all of the work has already been done; in fact, Jesus told us that it was “finished” at the cross. We can and will fail. However, in the words of Brennan Manning in Ragamuffin Gospel, “The mature Christians I have met along the way are those who have failed and have learned to live gracefully with their failure. Faithfulness requires the courage to risk everything on Jesus, the willingness to keep growing, and the readiness to risk failure throughout our lives . . . .we can’t lose, because we have nothing to lose.”

In conclusion, stop trying to build your spiritual portfolio; you are probably annoying yourself and others. Take off your makeup. God already knows what you look like and He adores you – babbling Idiots and all! If you’ve trusted in Jesus, when He looks at you He no longer sees your sin; instead, He sees the Beauty of Christ. God has your entire life story in His hands – the ugly and the beautiful. He’s got this. Now go play, and rest well tonight.

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