As I said, yesterday, I am speaking with a group of middle school and high school girls about identity and self-worth. Now, believe it or not, I don't have very high self-esteem, and I lack self-confidence...but somehow, I am to talk with these girls about loving themselves? Why is it I feel so called to speak with them when I am so mistaken myself? I'm sure some of you are thinking, "What? Takara has low self-esteem? How can she NOT be confident?" I know, me, the one with a wall full of accomplishments, so much to show for herself, doubts herself so much...I don't trust myself...I don't put much stock in what I have to offer...I told you, I'm a pretty confusing/confused individual.
As I pondered my self-esteem issues, it occurred to me that perhaps the very reason I am speaking on this is so that I might acknowledge how flawed my self-image is and correct it. I must "remove the log from my eye before removing that of my sister", or for those who would rather here a secular explanation...I must "remove head from sphincter, then drive". Now, I have been struggling to determine what direction to take the first meeting of The Sisterhood in...and today, I realized that the best way to help these girls examine their self-image is for me to begin to look at my own...so, I did just that...
I started by thinking about how I viewed my outward appearance. I examined the things I thought when I was washing up after a long day at work. Things like, "Ugh! I wish my hips weren't so big. If only my stomach were flatter. If only my thighs weren't so huge. I have a pudge. I'm so zitty. Ugh! My toes aren't even symmetrical. Why can't I have a pretty, straight smile?" I always get so frustrated. It's like when you go clothing shopping and nothing fits right...jeans that fit your hips are too big in the waist...shorts that fit in the waist are too tight in the hips...shirts that fit your shoulders aren't long enough...shirts that are long enough are baggy...ugh! Sometimes, lots of times, I feel like such a schlub!
Now, I have an amazingly odd mind that explores a couple trains of thought at a time. So, I have a lot of those..."Wait. That doesn't make sense if this other thing...hmmm..." moments. So, about the time I had realized how disgusted I often am with my body, I remembered a verse I had read in Soul Sister, the night before. Psalm 139: 13-14 says, "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." God made me...He gave me this body...He doesn't make mistakes. God made me beautifully, and He has a purpose for making me the way I am. By labeling my body as disgusting or ugly, by complaining about my appearance and wishing I looked differently, I am suggesting that God made a mistake. I definitely don't have the authority to correct my God. He is my Maker, my Savior, my Lord...how dare I say such things as, "Lord, I know you are marvelous, but I think you may have made a mistake...I should have had smaller hips." I'm going to correct God?!?! No! Of course not. That exemplifies just how erroneous my thinking was. God made me beautiful, and I should learn to appreciate His beauty in me as I do in the rest of His creation. And who am I to compare myself to another girl and say that surely she is the more lovely of the two? Comparing myself to others is like trying to find the most beautiful seashell on the beach. God is such a glorious creator and such a masterful artist that it is impossible to find the single most spectacular shell. They all have something special about them that makes them wonderfully and beautifully unique, and so it is with us. God made each of us just as we should be. Yes, God calls us to care for our bodies and show pride in them, and thus, our appearance is partly our responsibility...but the framework...all those genetic traits that we can't fix...that's God's doing...he formed our noses...he pieced together our skeletons...he blessed us with our "body type". We only think we can do better.
When we start "changing ourselves" instead of "liking ourselves", we don't just suggest the Lord has erred, but we tell Him that we think we could better. It'd be similar to all of the fairy tale characters deciding that they could create a better plot for their tales than the author has. Goldilocks may believe that she is better suited to living with seven tiny men. Cinderella may say that since she has been cleaning for so long, she really deserves to take a long nap instead of Sleeping Beauty. Everything would be chaotic and out of place because the characters can't see how they fit into the big picture. They only consider their own wants. And so it is with us...God knows what will make us truly happy even moreso than we do. God did not make us the way we are on a whim. He has a purpose and a reason for it all, and it is our duty to trust Him.
Applying this to my tubby time dilemas would mean that I should spend my time praising God for and with my beautiful body.
There's more to this self-image thing, though. For instance, my outfits. As one clothing store puts it in their "oath to their consumers"..."Style is not merely following trends. It is a reflection of character." My outfits, whether I like it or not, affect how others see me. My outfits should bring glory to God so that I can better do His will. By this, I don't mean that my shirts need to have Bible verses on them...but my quest for purity, my desire to be christlike, my journey down the straight and narrow should govern my wardrobe choices. My outfits should not make my brothers in Christ stumble, but they should adorn the beautiful body God gave me. I once heard Pastor Harlow speak on the third commandment and how it is defined in Deuteronomy. Now, I'm not claiming to be really booked...so, if I'm erring, here...please, correct me...but based on my understanding of what was said, we must use all of our actions and words to show that God is mighty and sovreign over us...(not to be taken lightly)...we bear Christ's name, as we are His...So, we must show the world what that means. Put in terms of appearance, I must be conscious of the fact that others are looking to me as an example of who God is. I want them to see me as modest and pure and beautiful inside and out...My outsides should line up with my insides but not overpower them. I want people to love me for who I am, not what I look like. Therefore, I feel I shouldn't be wearing clothing that draws a lot of attention to my assets or anything of that sort. My clothes shouldn't distract or detract from who I am. People should see Christ's love shining through me, without having their eyes take a detour *cough*...I also refuse to wear certain clothes just to cover up "flaws"...now, in all reality, implementing such a standard is really more about changing my mind set than anything else...it's the difference between wearing long shorts because my thighs are fat and wearing long shorts because they accentuate my rock awesome calves...or wearing long shorts because they emphasize my height...or a better example would be not wearing make-up to cover up my zits, hide the bags under my eyes and make myself look pretty but rather wearing what little make-up I wear to bring out my pretty eyes and show off my pretty smile.
I know I kind of meandered my way through that clothing stuff...forgive me...I'll try to make it up to you.
It really makes sense, when you think about it, to want your outward appearance to be an expression of your inward beauty...or at least to not have your outward appearance getting all the attention. It's like the "Fifty Years game" that Joshua Harris describes in I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He tells us to try to deal with his attractions to girls, he would imagine them as old ladies and determined whether he'd still be attracted to them when they were flabby and wrinkly and stuff...or if they would only grow in beauty, since their beauty shone from within. (It's like a line from my favorite Steven Curtis Chapman song...*sigh*)
Call me a girl...or a hopeless romantic...whatever...but I want my husband to love me for who I am, not what I look like, and in spite of who I may have been in the past...I want to grow to be the kind of woman that a Christian man deserves to have for a wife...the kind of woman that is everything he dreamed of...the kind of woman that he feels blessed to have in his life...I want to be a blessing to him...I want to uplift him and help him and cheer him...I want to be able to encourage him and support him and help him...but I know that to be that kind of woman, I'm going to need to work on some things...actually, I need a good deal of work. I realize that the work will never be done. I need to constantly grow in my love for the Lord, grow in my faith, grow in my understanding of His word...but in many respects, I have a lot of work to do before I could possibly be a good wife and mother...Honest examination of the heart is rough, you know that? There's so much work to be done...luckily, I know that I can do it all with God's help...it is by His grace that I came this far...and He did say He would never leave nor forsake us...it's still a lot of work...and whether or not I end up meeting a guy's standards (and having him meet mine) and getting married, I have to do the work...I need and want to grow in the Lord...I need and want to become more christlike...pure, faithful, loving, caring, humble, forgiving...I need and want to "grow in beauty" not just so one day some guy will imagine me as a beautiful old lady...not just so I'll be prepared to have a husband...but so that I can serve the Lord and do His will fully...so I can show others His glory...so I can prepare to be with Him...
My eyes tear up at the thought of all the work to be done...for it is so humbling to see how flawed I am...and yet, I know that Christ died for me...He took the punishment that was meant for me...He loves me that much...and I love Him....so, I will not make my love for Him a secret, but rather live out my love for Him through obedience to His commands and service to others. By the grace of God, I will continue to grow in Him...to love Him...and if He wills it, one day, my husband will be able to see the beauty of Christ's love shining in me.
Praise be to God who strengthens me.
Proverbs 31:30 "Favour is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who feareth the Lord, she shall be praised."