When Krista asked me to write a post on her blog I instantly said yes. Then she told me I had to write about a time when I felt beautiful. Oh. I spent many, many days trying to think about when I have felt beautiful. Then I started thinking, “Have I ever really felt beautiful?” and then, “What does ‘beautiful’ even mean?” While pondering this word I was a bit surprised by the meaning that first came to mind. My gut interpretation of beauty was exclusively centered on external appearances that others experience and find pleasing. I was taken aback because, as a Christian, I know that beauty ought to be based on much more than whatever look society tells us is attractive. I believe true beauty is a combination of inner beauty (character, faith, graciousness, confidence) and physical beauty. The most beautiful women I know possess both. So why did my mind go instantly to physical beauty? Probably because I (and, I would venture to guess, most women) have always desired to be viewed as such by others. There is so much emphasis on beauty in society that women are practically raised to be critical of their own appearances and to do anything they can to improve upon what they have.
I spent my adolescence a shy, teased, self-conscious teen, awkward in my tall, lanky body, longing to be and feel beautiful. I pored over magazines thinking that if I just had the right clothes, makeup, a better face, and bigger boobs I could finally be beautiful and seen as such. I spent hours in the mirror critiquing myself and trying to improve what I could. As I entered my late teens and started college I began to fit better into my body and discovered that I could actually gain male attention by dressing well and presenting myself in a confident manner, even if I didn’t feel confident or beautiful. While still extremely afraid of what others made of me (whether or not I was the right version of beautiful), I began to gain more and more consideration from men and started to feel a certain power in doing such. As I began to do whatever it took to get this attention (in all that word entails), I would feel pretty but also a sort of dirtiness. Getting married men, single men, young men, older men, any men to turn their heads and want what I had, getting them to find me “beautiful,” getting them to desire me physically and pursue me made me feel excited, powerful, sexy, strong, and sometimes dirty… but not beautiful. Something was missing.
This went on for some time until I turned the head of my future husband. He was extremely handsome and desired me but didn’t take me to bed. He respected me and was interested in what I thought and had to say. He cared and wanted to do right by me. He loved me. He proposed to and married me. Surely now I felt beautiful, right? Still not yet. There were times my husband told me I was and times I felt pretty but I was still massively self-conscious and always found things to critique about myself. I didn’t even believe that God found me beautiful. I knew (from what I was taught at church) that God loved me and created me the way I was on purpose and I was beautiful in His eyes, but I never believed it on a soul level.
One day, while on a road trip with my husband, listening to sermons along the way, I began to feel extremely convicted. I had grown up in church and learned about God my entire life, but I realized I didn’t have a real relationship with Him. We pulled over at an odd place called Lake of Egypt and I prayed that Jesus would forgive me for my sins and come into my heart. I surrendered my life to Him and said I wanted to live in His will and obey His commands. What a weight was lifted. This amazing God that came to earth, died for my sins, and was raised again loved me. I felt SO good inside… clean. But not yet beautiful.
Not long after my “Lake of Egypt moment” I began experiencing health issues that spiraled into chronic illness. As my condition deteriorated I became less mobile and therefore my body began to change. I gained some weight, looked different, and needed a lot of assistance. I wasn’t the person I had been before. I could no longer rely on dressing well and faking confidence to get attention and feel sort of good about myself. In fact, I couldn’t even rely on myself anymore. My own strength failed me and there was nothing I could do to control the situation I was in.
Over time I learned that I must rely on God. HE is my strength and HE is in control. Through having to give up control over my entire life, I have learned so many lessons. I never would have imagined that going through such a trial would teach me and grow me so much. I have even learned a little about beauty. I finally realized that while others may have found, or do find, or will find me beautiful, that has never been and will never be enough. Even when I have been considered beautiful by others in the past I still felt that something was missing. No matter how many compliments I receive I will never feel truly beautiful until I fully know that my value and worth is not based on the opinions of others, but on the love of my Saviour. In recently learning to rest in Him and His will and fully surrender my life to Him I have finally felt FULLY beautiful. Feeling beautiful in this way is a feeling of being completely accepted and appreciated for who I am – who I was created to be – and where I fit into God’s plan. It’s a feeling unlike any other. It is hard to remember and hard to hang onto and I know I will still struggle with the pressures of society and wanting to feel physically beautiful. The thing is, I think if I know where I stand in God’s eyes and strive to continue to grow spiritually my inner beauty might just shine a little brighter.
*This writer prefers to remain anonymous