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The Battle for My Face

article by Kat Miller


“I’ve observed the season of Lent for years,” Kristyn Ritner shares, Ecclesian and wife of lead pastor Jon. “But I admit I usually use ‘giving up’ something as an opportunity to lose weight.” But in March of 2019, it spiritually and physically shifted for her.

With the discipleship group of women that she leads, she went to an Ash Wednesday service where the title of the sermon that night was “Keeping up Appearances”. During the service, she started praying about what to give up for Lent.

“I thought, maybe I’ll give up bread,” Kristyn says. “And in my spirit, I felt God speak: ‘This is all about you. Do you really want to give something up? I want you to give up makeup for Me.’” And Kristyn thought, that is insane. No. That’s not happening.

But as the service went on, Kristyn found herself resonating with the passage on Matthew 6, as it described Jesus criticizing the religious people who would use fasting to make it about themselves and not about God. In her mind, it brought into question the why behind observing Lent, leading up to Easter.

After the service, Kristyn floated the idea by her discipleship group. “These younger women were all so supportive and telling me ‘You can do this!’ It was super encouraging even though I was still thinking Nooo!” Kristyn laughs.

While her husband and close friends were supportive, her two children were nervous about the idea. Their anxiety solidified Kristyn’s decision. “I wanted to model for my teenage daughter that she is not defined by how she looks,” Kristyn emphasizes. A struggle Kristyn knows well.

“People are never saying to me, you’re so insightful and wise,” Kristyn reveals. “Instead, it’s things like, I like your hair, I like your makeup. But I constantly don’t feel pretty enough. I want to know that someone wants to talk to me, not because of the way I look, but for something deeper in me. And God revealed I won’t know if that’s true unless I eliminate that aspect for a while.”

So, as Kristyn prepared to go makeup-free for 40 days, she decided to deliberately not mention it during Lent. “If I explain it, it makes it acceptable in a way,” Kristyn explains. “That was part of my quest in this. I wanted to be able to interact with people and not apologize for it.” But her fear was that she would spend the next several weeks fielding questions and comments like: Are you ok? You look tired. Are you sick?

And so, on the first day of Lent she abandoned her usual makeup routine of highlighter, full foundation powder, contouring, blush, eyebrow filler, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick and instead put on a little bit of a tinted BB Cream lotion.

The second day of Lent she got the worst cold sore she’s had in twenty years. “I thought, God hates me!” Kristyn laughs, “They’re hard to cover up even with makeup!” But a friend reached out to her, encouraging her through the emotional struggle.

A few weeks later, she went to a nice dinner and a concert with another friend. “That was hard,” she admits, “but I was thankful the venue was dark, and no one could see me. Then I realized, I will go through all the effort of putting on makeup and not even like the way I look in my photos. So what is the point? Who am I trying to impress here?

Kristyn without makeup.

Kristyn without makeup.

As the weeks went on, and school pickups and yoga classes were usually done sans makeup anyway, she discovered Church was the hardest for her. “At church I always look nice so I thought if I can’t do this here, then we have a problem,” she confesses.

Then, the fourth Sunday into Lent, she experienced a breakthrough. “I caught myself in a moment in the church lobby where I realized I was feeling fully myself.” Kristyn shares. “I was engaging with people as if I had a full face of makeup on. Before that, I felt very insecure, not being as bubbly so as not to draw attention to myself. But in that moment, it all went away; I was fully me.”

Through the process of observing Lent, she became a changed person. “I am not my makeup,” Kristyn declares. “I learned I wasted a lot of time before. My friends couldn’t tell the difference.” Not one person- friend or stranger- asked if she was sick or tired during Lent.

Going through the process helped her trust God more. “The more I lean into these crazy God promptings, the more I trust Him,” she says. “Like, Wow, You really do have my best interest. When You tell me to give up something, it’s because You’re calling me to freedom. I now feel good in my skin.”

 It’s come at a crucial time in her life as she turned 40 this spring. “I’ve found less is more,” she explains. “It’s ushered me into aging; I feel cleaner without heavy makeup on. Our culture talks a lot about puberty and that life change, but no one talks about the change of getting older.”

 In the past few months since Lent has ended, she has shifted her makeup routine. “I wear less makeup now. I’ve gained so much time, it’s freeing!” she smiles. “I used to run the mental gymnastics of I can’t go out because I don’t have time to put on a full face of makeup. Now I just go to the event!”