One of my favorite musicals is My Fair Lady. About halfway through the film, the title character, played by Audrey Hepburn, makes a head-turning appearance at a grand ball. All eyes in the room are on this former ugly duckling as she floats down the main staircase in a white gown with the largest diamond necklace and biggest hairstyle I've ever seen.
It's all about transformation … and I loved every minute of it.
Our culture is obsessed with transformation. The media leads the pack with shows like The Swan, Extreme Makeover, Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and MTV's I Want a Famous Face. I remember crying over a Home Edition when a farming family who has just lost their dad to cancer received a multi-million dollar home renovation, complete with two luxury cars, a new barn, and an indoor reptile tank. Who doesn't love a happy ending?
It's not easy to be ordinary these days; it seems that everyone we know is in search of over-the-top beauty or careers or relationships. We want it immediately, at the cost of learning something about how we can have lasting change by developing better habits, setting goals, and having self-control. It's easy to look like Lindsay Lohan when you have a team of plastic surgeons standing at the ready to suck the fat out of your thighs.
So, when the "Christian Music Makeover" came along, my band, Daniel's Window, saw an opportunity to use this obsession with transformation in a new way. The makeover's purpose was to showcase not only a physical and musical transformation, but a spiritual one as well. We knew the Daniel's Window audience well enough to realize that they would enjoy watching us get more physically fit, but that they would also get a chance to watch what God was teaching us about ourselves individually and as a band during this six-month process.
Not gonna look like Lindsay
In all honesty, I have to admit that the physical part of the makeover process consumed me at first. Remember, one of my favorite movies is about a poor flower girl who gets to wear ball gowns and is courted by handsome men with wonderful British accents. So I immersed myself in learning from my MAC cosmetics consultant, Thomas, about how to apply my makeup with brushes instead of sponge applicators and how to gently squeeze the eyelash curler several times against my lashes before brushing on my mascara.
I ate my low-sodium Jenny Craig Vegetable Garden Soup with enthusiasm, looking forward to my weekly weigh-ins where the scale would reveal another pound lost. I actually joined a gym and walked on an elliptical machine where I would burn 230 calories every half hour. I went down a dress size. I could fit in my old jeans. I was going to be the next Swan!
Then I hit a slump: My weight loss just stopped. My Jenny Craig consultant patted me on the back and said it was probably the fact that I was wearing heavy jeans when I weighed in that week. At the next weigh-in, I wore gym shorts, and the scale didn't go down a single pound. All hopes of looking like Lindsay Lohan were beginning to fade. To my relief, I read in People magazine that Lindsay had decided to dye her hair blond that week, so at least our hair color was the same.
I practiced my new butterfly guitar with diligence
Wanting instant success
I was also supposed to learn how to play the guitar during the makeover, with the goal of actually playing a song on stage with the rest of the band. However, things weren't going so well in my guitar lessons either. I had practiced my new butterfly guitar with robot-like diligence for the first month, and when the band's tour schedule had gotten heavier, I began to make excuses to my guitar teacher that there just wasn't enough time in my day to practice. I was pulling out all the excuses I used with Mrs. Buckwalter in seventh grade piano lessons again.
Where were all the behind-the-scenes people—like Ty Pennington from Extreme Makeover—who could help me get the job done in two days or less? I'll bet Ty didn't run into any obstacles like craving a Starbucks frappuccino when you're only allowed water and diet soft drinks. I wanted the instant success that I saw on the shows.
One of the verses I remember memorizing when I was a little girl was Romans 12:2: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (NIV).
I also like The Message's take on it: "Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
I think the apostle Paul is telling us a couple of things about true transformation. One is that transformation is a process, not a one-time event. Renewing my mind by keeping my attention on God and mentally reviewing his word is a daily action. One of the sponsors of our makeover was Dave Ramsey, a great financial advisor. Dave often says that his methods to gain financial peace are like a slow-cooking crock-pot, not the instant gratification of a microwave. It takes time to achieve greatness in anything, whether it's learning how to save your money, play the guitar, or transform your mind.
Spiritual renewal begins on the inside, not on the outside. The Psalmist views a person's soul like a tree: "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither (Psalm 1:2-3).
When I spend all my time meditating on the latest trends in fashion in People magazine or worrying about my weight, I'm starving my soul. I'm not suggesting we all stay away from the entertainment rack at the local Barnes and Noble; I'm just saying it might be wise to balance our reading with some time in the Bible.
The transformational results
So, what happened once I started to realize that the physical makeover wasn't the key to total transformation? For one, I began to spend more time thinking about how God could use our band more effectively. In March, the whole band got together in a hotel room and had an honest discussion about where we felt God was leading us. We talked about everything from songwriting to hanging out with students after our shows to defining just what the main purpose of Daniel's Window was. We hadn't done that in a very long time, and I think every one of us would say it was one of the best discussions we've ever had.
I ended up dropping 25 pounds, but my biggest makeover came on the inside
Less than a month after that hotel room meeting, the band had a chance to go into several public schools with a speaker. Since we couldn't talk about God, the speaker would talk about topics like self-esteem and abstinence. After the assembly he would invite the students to a meeting later in the evening where we could play our own music and where he would talk about God with no restrictions.
If I had been uncertain about how God was using me and the band before these events, then he made it very clear that we were part of something a lot more important than my obsession with my physical appearance. In one event alone, we saw hundreds of students make life-changing decisions about making God the leader of their lives. Not only did God transform those students from upstate New York from the inside out, he reminded me that I am part of something that has value beyond what MTV proclaims is "the next big thing."
Am I glad I dropped 25 pounds and learned how to play guitar? You bet. Are there days I wish I could roll out of bed and look like Lindsay Lohan? Sometimes. But one of the most important things I've taken away from the Christian Music Makeover is that transformation is not instantaneous. It's a daily process that changes me slowly over a lifetime.
Our sister publication, Campus Life, did a recent story on Heather in which she discusses a difficult past in which she struggled with feelings of worthlessness and self-abuse. She's long past the self-abuse, but admits the self-esteem issues are an ongoing part of the journey—all part of that inner transformation, that gradual extreme makeover, she discussed in the above story.
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