beautiful

{From the Archives}

I stood in front of the mirror and frowned. What had once been the outline of my abs was disappearing overnight, my face was broken out in all-new places, and I could point out several other flaws at the drop of a hat. Mr. M poked his head in the bathroom door.

“You’re beautiful.”

I smiled wanly. “At least you think so.”

I am now five months pregnant with Baby M, and though I’ve been able to dress my growing body underneath my regular clothes so far (thank heavens for blousy trends!), it is growing more difficult by the week. Not just that, but I’ve seen the visible changes as I get dressed each morning and hastily cover up my “undesirable” to put best face forward in my world.

Many of you are like me. Pregnant or not, you look in the mirror and cringe at what you see; then you cover up the “undesirable” before facing a world of your own.

Our culture, and even our churches, makes an ardent effort to tell women they are beautiful. There are Twitter campaigns and massive movements designed to convince us that we are beautiful, regardless of height, weight, or facial features. But like me standing in front of the bathroom mirror, their encouragements and platitudes bounce off our insecurity and never sink in.

Some of you think if you married the right man, one who – like my husband – tells you you’re beautiful every day, your insecurities would wane. You think if you had the constant affirmation of a relationship it would prove your attractiveness. So you strive to become that kind of attractive – whatever “that kind” happens to be, usually determined by Redbook and Cosmo – in an attempt to find peace.

Others think they’ll be convinced of their own beauty by removing more clothes and being willing to rock their “bikini bod” on the beach, where everyone can see your body and an outward display of so-called confidence.

And others think that the safest route is to hide from it all, giving up on any effort to be fit and healthy because looking like “those girls” is simply impossible, so why try?

But these “solutions” do nothing more than temporarily numb the problem, burying it from our sight for a few more days until it arises again in the mirror whispering, “Who IS the fairest of them all? Definitely not you.”

So we live as a band of broken women, hungry to be beautiful but sure we are not; unwilling to accept what is good about ourselves but tired of living like we’re never good enough.

The truth is, no matter how many bloggers, speakers, bible study leaders and mentors tell us we’re beautiful, it won’t be enough. No matter how many clothes you take off, no matter how much your husband tells you, no matter how hard you try to hide from it – the soul-deep longing to be desirable is a part of us that cannot be quenched by anything our worlds have to offer.

Until we believe in our hearts we are desirable, nothing anyone says will convince us it’s true.

So how can we be convinced of our desirability? How can we know from our heart of hearts that we are, indeed, beautiful, and how would that change how we live?

It begins with the Creator of our hearts. When we were lovingly and meticulously designed by God, He placed within us the desire to be desired. The God who brought beauty into being placed eternity within us: the capacity to echo the nature of God Himself, to know the greatness of abundant life, and to experience the depths of everlasting love. Within each freckled face, each blonde head, each curvy body and each skinny girl God placed the longing to echo His creative Spirit by bringing beauty to this world.

But the world we come into is tainted, and what God initially designed as “beautiful” has been cheapened for market use, turning the sacred into a “den of thieves”. Our culture grasps at our desire to be desired, our longing to bring beauty, and convinces us the way to satisfy those longings is to improve ourselves:

“Get sexy abs and your bikini body and you’ll have confidence to walk on that beach!”

“Three outfits sure to get him in bed with you!”

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.”

Others react against these messages by telling us it doesn’t matter what you look like, the ability to take off clothes is the mark of true confidence:

“Want a beach body? Have a body, go to the beach.”

“How dare you say I should cover up! You’re a slut shamer. My body, my choice.”

All of these miss God’s mark. All of them miss His intentions. And none of them will ever satisfy. As I wrote in my post Dear Girl: You Can’t Shed Shame by Shedding Clothes:

“At the beginning, nakedness was a pure and holy thing because the world was pure and holy. There were no lust-filled eyes, no hungry evils, no threat of leaked photos and cheapened sexuality. It was perfect. It was safe.

But when sin entered the world, nothing was the same. It was no longer a safe place for the magnum opus of God’s creation: woman, her beautiful body in all its glory, had to be shielded from the shame of sin. So God Himself made a covering. Nakedness would now be reserved for the only place where it could once again be pure and holy: marriage. 

Shame did not come from modesty. Modesty – the covering – came to deflect shame. God Himself clothed man and woman to shield their beauty from the evil of this world.”

Looking good naked won’t solve the desire to be desired. Improving your physical appearance may help, but it will never be the solution to your insecurity. Why? Because soul-deep longings are only satisfied by soul-deep love.

The good news is – such a love exists.

There is a love that looked on you before you were born, whether your BMI lists you as obese or you’re hiding your anorexia from everyone around you. There is a love that molded you in the womb, and chose your nose and your eyes and your hair color and said, “It is very good.” And there is a love that opened its arms bleeding grace to cover the ugliness of your sin and clothe you with beauty and strength.

There is a love that desires you, and it’s God’s.

You may read this and feel the tendrils of disbelief curl around your heart, but I challenge you to cut them out now – pull them at the root of doubt and ask the One who formed you to “Help your unbelief!” Grace is something we want to disbelieve because we don’t deserve it. But it is in accepting grace that we find the meaning of freedom.

There is freedom in knowing God thinks you are beautiful, because no opinion is greater than His. At the end of time, when we stand before Him, will it matter what Hollywood said? Will it matter that Aunt Shirley said you were homely? Will it matter that Redbook perpetuated an idealized image of womanhood for fifty years? No. The only thing that will matter in that moment is that you are desired by God, written on the palms of His hands, and radiating the beauty of a soul who believes what God says is true.

You see, you can’t believe in the gospel and simultaneously distrust the worth God places upon you. You can’t believe Jesus died for you if you think He died for you “even though you’re ugly”. Jesus died for you because He created you as one whom He loves. You were worth it: body and soul.

As I stand in front of the mirror each day, the thoughts of inadequacy or unhappiness with my changing body grappling for my heart, I tell myself the same thing: I am a vessel of God’s love. What has been poured into me by the love and grace of Jesus Christ will be poured out of me today regardless of my acne and stretch marks and weight gain. No one needs to convince me to love my body, because that’s not what life is about. No one needs to tell me I’m beautiful (though I accept the compliment) because I choose to believe the opinion that matters.

You too have that choice: trust, or disbelieve. Bondage or freedom.

And dear girls, it changes you. It frees you from the opinions of others, not in the malicious way the mainstream does it but in the kind, gentle way of a woman who knows she is beautiful not because of what she has done, but what God has done in her.

Believe him, dear girls. Believe Him when He says you are beautiful:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. ” (Ecc. 3:11)

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The Other Virgin Diaries Series

God, What Do I Do With These Desires?

Dear Girl, I’m Just Like You

Dear Girl, A Good Man Will Still Want You

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