I don’t know about you, but when I look in the mirror in the morning my first thought isn’t, “Wow. You’re really beautiful”!
For many years, I have struggled with self-image. When I look in the mirror my head fills with thoughts that are not pleasant, positive or particularly kind. Perhaps because of these thoughts, my weight has changed from overweight to underweight to right back round to overweight again during the changing circumstances of my life. Really, the number on the scales has been insignificant; whatever it has been, I have still looked at myself and thought the same things. It’s not easy to admit, but here are the things I have said – and since I am being honest, still say – to myself…
I’m so ugly.
Look at those fat thighs.
I can’t go out like this, people will just see a fat girl.
Why can’t I just have a nicer face?
No wonder I’m still single: look at me.
I hate my broad shoulders.
What am I going to do in summer? I can’t wear shorts with my legs and belly.
I’ll never be beautiful.
Pardon the pun, but it’s not pretty is it? Still, those thoughts are there every time I see myself. It’s a daily struggle and a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. I feel ugly, so I eat, then I feel uglier, so I eat some more. I feel under-confident in my clothes, so I don’t go out with friends. I convince myself I’ll never be pretty, so what’s the use in trying? I laugh it off, call myself a Plain Jane and convince everyone of my nonchalance and pretend I don’t care.
But I do care.
Despite all those ugly thoughts, I love beautiful things. I love art and music and writing and making things of goodness and color. I love my God even more. So much more. I love His creation and His grace and His everlasting and unfailing love. I tell the girls I know – younger, older, same age – that they are beautiful. I believe they are beautiful. So why do I have such a tough time believing it about myself?
Believe me, the irony is not lost on me. I believe that God makes all things beautiful, I believe I am His daughter and creation, and yet I do not believe I am beautiful. Crazy, I know. But still…
Last time I wrote, I wrote about God’s love being unfailing and everlasting. That love is not earned or given because we reach a given standard. We are loved because of Him, not because of us. This has been the focus of my devotions and meditations this week. I began a new study about beauty and the first session took me right back to the beginning, to Genesis, to Eve.
Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called “woman”,
for she was taken out of man.’
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. – Genesis 2:22-25
When God made Eve, her companion’s reaction was not, ‘Wait a minute, God, couldn’t you give her thinner thighs, and maybe a straighter nose’. Eve did not shop around for clothes a size bigger to hide her tummy. Eve was naked and unashamed.
Just think on that: there was no shame. No. Shame. Whatsoever. Eve was close to God, close enough that all she saw was His – and therefore her own – beauty. Who knows, maybe she sat each day looking into the water and admiring the beauty of God’s creation, manifest in every curve and line of her own perfect form.
He saw it, and it was good. He saw Eve, and she was good. Eve saw herself, and she was good.
When did all that change? When everything changed, when sin entered the world. The first time Eve felt ashamed of her body, felt less than beautiful, was when she sinned and moved away from God. It is the distance that made the ugliness. Did Eve’s body change? No. Did Adam’s? No. All that changed was their sin. If we think of that logically, then, it is not Eve’s body that is ugly, it is her sin.
Just like Eve, I am God’s creation. I am His daughter, His precious child, the one for whom He gave up His only son because He cannot bear our separation and because He loves me. God does not look at me first thing in a morning, after too many chocolate Easter eggs or after a long stressful day and think ‘She’s ugly. Gosh, she’s just so fat.’ He looks at me and sees His beautiful and good creation.
When I prayed on this verse, I listened for God’s voice. What was God saying to me, His daughter, as I cried about my image and my inability, right now, to see myself as anything other than ugly?
“My precious daughter, don’t call yourself ugly. I made you beautiful and you are. Can’t you see how much I love you, how beautiful and unique you are? You are mine. You are beautiful, just as I intended.”
God made me. I would never dream of insulting Him by saying He could have done a better job, or that maybe He might have made a few mistakes. He didn’t. So this week, I have made a promise to myself that every day I will look in the mirror. Instead of saying ‘I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’ll never be enough for anyone to love’, I will instead speak God’s truth:
You are God’s work of art.
You are enough.
You are ridiculously beautiful.
Will saying this truth to myself magically make me feel beautiful overnight? Probably not. But I will say it every day, and maybe, as I say it more, I will start to believe it too.