I have my yearly physical on Wednesday and I have to admit: I’m most worried about being weighed. I know I’ll want to explain to my doctor that I’ve put on weight but–it’s not my fault. I mean, I work three jobs, go to grad school and have a decent social life. Of course those new five pounds were inevitable.
Today, however, I read a blog on beauty and growing up and I was challenged to reconsider my own thoughts on my self image. I’ve grown a lot, especially in the past year, but there is certainly a long ways to go…
When we lived in California, my home was the backyard, wide and deep, with a shallow hill over which we soared on boxes that we’d stolen from the trash and recycling. Hours passed beneath the hot bright sun until our skin turned pinkish red and the highlights of my hair were brilliant streaks of blonde white amid the mousey brown. We were children and we were somehow free of the expectations that the world would someday place upon us. In the little house with the big backyard, on the street of run-down families and exhausted lives, we were thriving as we played on the streets, on the dead clover prickles of our lawn, beneath the gnarled branches of the tree that guarded our world.
In Illinois I first learned about beauty and saw that I didn’t fit. I spent hours outside in the new backyard, reading on the deck, cartwheeling over our first plot of lush green grass, and yet I was always the ghostly white that comes from Welsh and English genes. My hair was pin straight and no amount of effort from my adolescent friends could change it. I was plain.
High school brought Colorado and with it more affluence than I’d previously known among my friends. The girls laid out in summer, and they used tanning beds in the winter. They highlighted and died their hair all shades of unnatural colours, but somehow it went with the eye make up, the rouge and the laughing smiles that they displayed to the world. I had hips that didn’t fit into jeans in “my” section of the stores and my hair was still straight as could be and mousey brown. I had braces and bright grey blue eyes that looked like the calm water of Oceanside beach—but the boys only noticed the braces.
College happened and then a phase where I cared so much about what others thought that I let them pick my clothes and dress me up. But I was never myself.
And then, nearly two years ago, I started cleaning the house I lived in for rent. I hand washed the floors, crown molding, the doors, the tables and counters. My hands were soaked in bleach and vinegar and in the bitter winter of Colorado they cracked and bled. The cuticles tore back and the nails were weak with moisture. Somewhere in those months of scrubbing I found that little girl with her blonde streaks and bruised, scraped knees. She was sweet and laughed more than I remembered. She didn’t mind that my hands were red and wrinkled, she took them in hers and reminded me of who I am and what makes me beautiful.
My strength, my love, my grace and my dependence on Him are what matter and the beauty of my body comes second to this. And then, the little girl whispered in my ear that my beautiful strength was reflected in the chapped skin of my palms, she whispered that someone would see that and he’d find me beautiful. He’d hug my hips and pinch my side where I am most self conscious. He’d stare at my eyes and stroke my hair. He’d age with me, as the laugh lines turned to wrinkles and the wrinkles began to sag beneath the weight of so many rich, full years. He’d call me beautiful when everything in me lost elasticity and my hair had turned to shades of wisest grey and white, while falling out in irregular tufts.
But what wouldn’t matter would be the man, so much as learning to believe it myself: that God has made me as He wanted and that I am gorgeous no matter the mood of the bathroom scale or the latest fashion trend. I have beauty and worth because of who has made me and because He loves me.
clarification: I’m certainly not saying I needed a man to tell me I was beautiful. But there are days when I don’t believe it and I count myself blessed to have E at my side to remind me that I am gorgeous and that God didn’t mess up when He formed me. I am beautiful, just as I am.