I have issues. Judging by the vast number of articles and blog posts I read, you have issues too. I’ve watched those Dove commercials on self-perception, and I too have cried because I can relate. I’m talking to the ladies here, but you men would do well to keep reading too. If you can’t relate personally, there is definitely a female in your life with…well, issues.
There are no less than eight different eye treatments cluttering my medicine cabinet as I write this. Creams, serums, gels, oils; all claiming to have the magical properties of the fountain of youth. They will make my fine lines, puffiness and under eye circles disappear, or so they say. I faithfully used each one for a time before concluding that I’d been lied to. Then it is on to the next snake-oil salesman for a new product because this one just might work.
Then, maybe I will be beautiful.
I know that my view of beauty is skewed. I suppose I could blame it on our culture that prizes hyper-sexuality, perfection, and above all, youth. But the simpler truth is that I have judged myself through the eyes of others my whole life. I’m willing to bet that you have too.
As children, we were all aware of who the beautiful ones were; the rest of us did the best we could. Over time, with the skillful use of smoke and mirrors I obtained the illusion of loveliness, and the adoration in the eyes of others was oh, so intoxicating! Then I would wash off the mask, and once again was just plain old me. The voices and actions of suitors long past added to the cacophony of voices telling me that I was just not pretty enough. Not captivating enough. Not worthy of love.
By the time my knight in shining armor arrived, I was already damaged. Even though he’d profess his undying devotion to me, I felt unworthy and suspicious. Compliments were met with derision and declarations of love were tainted by my disfigured self-image.
As the years have passed and taken their toll, my issues have only magnified. Wrinkled flesh and added pounds only make me cringe all the more when I’m forced to look in the mirror. Adding to the burden, as Christian women, we are often made to feel guilty for desiring to be beautiful. Or we are given pat answers that soothe the surface without healing the deeper wounds inside.
I have put off posting about this topic for months simply because I had no answers. I still don’t, but I am beginning to see…
I recently went to a book tour for my favorite author and my mind is still reeling from some of the things he shared that night. What is pertinent to this particular issue is that when we look in the mirror, what we see is not who we are. If I were to lose my limbs, my face, even my memory, would I still be me? Yes, of course I would. I am a spiritual being completely unreliant on my physical form.
What he said next sucked the breath from my lungs. He said that we live our lives as if we are physical beings who occasionally have spiritual experiences. True, yes? But Mr. Dekker then pointed out that this is totally wrong. Rather, we are spiritual beings who are living a temporary physical existence. The truth of this was so simple, yet so weighty, that I momentarily forgot to breathe.
This is so profound that I want to reiterate:
We live our lives as if we are physical beings having the occasional spiritual experience. The reality, however, is that we are spiritual beings living a temporary physical existence.
Sitting in my plastic stackable chair, surrounded by hundreds of people, I felt the shackles of my ‘issues’ fall away. I could clearly see that I have indeed been living this deception. Through my mind flashed all of the words and events that had led to my perception of my own worth, my own beauty. I could see that my identity was based on falsehoods. (Please take a moment and read about our true identity here.) I wanted to jump up and dance, to sing praises to my Creator, to shout to the world that I was finally free!
This is so huge to me, and I think all of us on varying levels, because our perception of reality will have a profound influence on how we live our lives.
If I try to find my significance in outward beauty, or even in my roles of daughter, wife, mother, teacher, or church member, then I am doomed to failure. By understanding my identity as daughter of the Most High, I am learning that He looks at me as beautiful, perfect, without blemish, and complete.
Do I embrace my visage in the mirror now? No, I don’t. I do not see my physical form much different. However, I no longer feel as enslaved to it. My loathing and obsession have lessened because I know my worth does not reside in flesh and bone. The ugliness of my warped vision won’t last forever.
Someday that ugliness will all be gone.
Someday I will sing and dance and walk hand-in-hand with my Jesus.
And someday I will look into His eyes and know that I am beautiful.