Recently a trend was making the rounds on Facebook, a poignant appeal to women, a call to action against the rampant negative body image issues so prevalent in our culture today. The post asked women to share five photographs in which they feel beautiful. I pondered this. I thought of one photograph in which I felt beautiful, but upon pulling it out to look at it, I realized I was mistaken. Shrugging inwardly, I let it go, but the concept kept pulling at me.
I know I have a damaged view of my own worth, of my beauty. Seeing only the outward flaws and carrying the baggage of how others have viewed me in the past renders me almost incapable of sitting for a photo. Knowing I will hate every snapshot, it is only when I absolutely have to that I will concede to be photographed.
A few weeks ago, we needed photos for a project I’m working on. We set up with all sorts of whimsical props, some thoughtful and some goofy. I even wore a tutu. Though I had been dreading this photo shoot, I found myself loosening up with the utter absurdity of what we were doing. I can even say it ended up being fun.
But most surprising to me was, upon looking through and categorizing the photos, I found there were several I actually liked. Here, weeks prior, I couldn’t find five pictures out of a lifetime in which I felt beautiful, yet here there were several. Why was that?
What made this photo shoot different was that I wasn’t trying to be anyone but my own goofy self. Several of the shots I liked ended up being rather silly, with me making faces at my husband behind the lens. All in all, it was a liberating experience. Sadly, a week or so after the shoot, our computer was affected by a malicious virus that wiped out a good portion of the photos. So much for five photos I feel lovely in. Sigh.
Going through the remaining photos, I found one in the ‘don’t use’ folder that intrigued me. It was a mistake, a picture in which I am holding a mirror, but the angle of the mirror leaves it empty. The portrait caught my imaginings and I found my mind drifting to this verse:
“So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NLT)
We are always reflecting something, aren’t we? When we look at a person, we see the reflection of their experiences, their hurts and joys and the all the bits of life they have internalized. But as those who have had the veil removed, those of us who have an intimate walk with our Creator, aren’t we to reflect something that transcends self?
The image we are created to reflect is that of our Father who is life and light, limitless creativity, and boundless love so lavish we can only comprehend the faintest glimmer of it.
When I allow incorrect perceptions and wrong attitudes to crowd my consciousness, then he can no longer be seen in me. So how do I purge the garbage of self and present a clear representation of him? By remembering who I belong to and contemplating what he thinks of me.
My Creator chose me to be his own and sees me as already complete, without blemish. (Ephesians 1:4-5, Hebrews 10:14, Colossians 2:10) Like my photo shoot, I find liberation only in walking out who my Father created me to be, rather than in trying to be something or someone different. Whether I am beautiful or not by the standards of this world is irrelevant.
Basking in the knowledge that I am a daughter of El Elyon, I can reflect his goodness and know that, because of him alone, I am beautiful.
Lord, help me to empty my inner mirror, to let go of any distorted or false sense of self, and learn to live simply as a beloved child of the Most High. Let the image I reflect to the world be more and more a likeness of You. May it be that, reflected in me, others see your beauty, your grace, and your indescribable love for them. Amen.