I’d be beautiful if. If I was taller. If I was thinner. If my hair had less gray. If my eyes were green. If my nose lost its bump. If my boobs were…if. if. if.
I look into the mirror every day hoping to like what I see. But this morning was no different than most. Instead of a supermodel, something else stared back. Layers of pudginess jiggled. Wrinkles seemed to appear overnight, but in reality they’ve been working themselves into a rut for years. And two fresh, angry, disgusting zits. Right there on my 37 year-old face.
I wish I liked what I saw. I wish the older I got, the easier it got. I wish I didn’t feel ugly.
I wish. I wish. I wish.
It was in the lunch line in sixth grade when a friend leaned over and whispered, Suck in your tummy. You’re pooching. Even now, I honestly believe she was only trying to help in the way girls sometimes do. But I’ve never been the same since that day. That day when my childhood was stripped away by the heavy requirements of womanhood.
And I’m still weighed down—burdened by my perception of beauty. Even though I know all the right answers. The answers that tell me we buy into the Photoshopped distortion of beautiful. The answers that tell me it’s a beautiful heart that counts. The answers that tell me God never creates ugly, and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
All the right answers. Because they are. Right, I mean.
And still I struggle.
My parents have always told me I’m beautiful. My husband tells me I’m beautiful. Friends have said the same. But none of it really matters if I never believe it true of myself. We never believe it of ourselves because we allow the lie to ring louder than the truth.
The greatest lie a woman can hold onto? That she’s not beautiful. Because when a woman feels ugly, she feels unworthy.
Unworthy of a happy home. Unworthy of close relationships. Unworthy of a Savior.
Lies. Lies. Lies.
Because if the God of Heaven loved me enough, you enough, to suffer the torture of a crucifixion, well…doesn’t that make us worth something?
And so yesterday, as I was neck-deep in my wallowing and self-pity, both ugly to be sure, I heard the simple words in my heart. Jesus calling. Jesus reminding. Jesus saying.
Breathe me in.
I haven’t been, you know. Breathing Jesus in. Lately I’ve missed breathing deeply of God’s Truths. His Word. And this is never good. Because the less truth I listen to, the more lies I believe.
If I breathe in more of His glory, maybe I won’t be consumed by my own questions of beauty. Because the more I know of He who lives in me, the less that ugliness can exist in my soul, in my heart, on my face.
I remember standing on the edge of the Indian Ocean. Arms stretched out, face tipped up toward the sky, and eyes closed. Breathing. Marveling at the grandeur before me. Surrounded by magnificence. Whether or not I was pretty was the last thing on my mind.
Instead, I was filled up by the knowing. By the extraordinary artistic power of my Creator. The beauty was inescapable.
The answer to our broken self-esteems and a worldly definition of beauty? Breathing in Jesus. Inhaling deep the artist. The painter of magnificence. The designer of glory.
So simple. So true.
And so now I know. I’d be beautiful if. If I spent more time soaking in the words of Jesus and less time soaking in my own reflection.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7