Last month we were experiencing triple digit temperatures. My family and I were at the beach in an attempt to keep cool. Normally, I wear shorts or a swim skirt and a swim shirt over my bathing suit. For some reason this time, I left my swim shirt at home. I had a swim skirt and a bikini top that would usually be covered. I prefer to stay modest and wouldn't normally wear a two piece in public, even if it's only the top showing.
That day, I threw caution to the wind and took off my beach over-up dress because I wanted to go in the water. (remember it was triple digits!) I had my bathing suit and my swim skirt. I'll admit, in that moment I was more self-conscious about my own body than any ideas of modesty. But I am not writing to debate modesty.
For the first time in my life...I owned my body. It was mine and I wasn't going to cover it up out of embarrassment or self-conscious shame. Again--this wasn't about modesty. Yes, I am 39 years old. Yes, I have a body that has birthed four amazing children. It is part of who I am. I have never been more comfortable in my skin than that day at the beach.
What was happening in that defining moment at the beach was the realization that I was more than just the body standing in the sand. I was a lifetime of moments and events. The skin was the most superficial thing about me. My outer appearance or shell, was only the surface of who I really am.
It didn't matter how old my body was or is, or even how old it did or didn't look. It didn't matter if I had the best or worst body on the shore. Actually, how I looked didn't matter to me at all. (or anyone else, actually) I made a conscious choice to recognize my value wasn't wrapped up, literally or figuratively, in the exterior of my human shell. And suddenly it wasn't. It was liberating.
I waited thirty nine years for that? Thirty-nine years to recognize, in only a few seconds, that it doesn't even matter. Think about that. It doesn't matter.
Now, look in the mirror. Really take a deep, honest look at yourself. What do you see, now?
When you really take that honest look at yourself, when you look into your own eyes...Are you afraid to look? Afraid of what you really might see?
Do you see a broken woman, heartache written across every fine line? Do you want to look away right now? Look a little deeper...do you see a little girl who's dreams lost their luster a long time ago? Or maybe you see someone you hardly recognize and you wonder what happen to the woman you used to be able to face? When did she become the one you couldn't make eye contact with, afraid she'd remind you of everything you've been trying to forget.
The thing is, how you see yourself, probably isn't what everyone else sees. Maybe it's because you try to hide so well. The problem with hiding is that you always know where you are. You always know who you are.
So does God.
Psa 139:7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
There was another moment, I did not have any make-up on. It was early morning and I wasn't even dressed for the day, yet. I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror in passing. I had to take a second look. I honestly, couldn't believe what I saw. There was a woman looking back at me, from the mirror, and she was actually beautiful.
That is an odd thought to have, isn't it? It sounds immodest and proud. I know. I thought that too. I could not deny what I was seeing even if I doubted though. Was it the lighting? The reflection in my mirror was that of a fresh faced woman...and she looked beautiful.
I knew it wasn't a reflection I see everyday, if ever. I also knew, in that moment...I was seeing myself, through the eyes of God.
It wasn't the face of where I had been. It wasn't a face that showed the fatigue or stress I was feeling at the time. It wasn't the face of who I thought I was...a lost little girl grown into a broken woman.
It was the face of a cherished daughter of a King, who had grown into his bride.
I was facing, at least for a moment, the woman I was created to be.
These two incidents served to liberate me to step more into my God given identity. The truth is that my appearance is the least of who I am. It's barely scratching the surface of my identity. Often, it serves as a sort of bondage, a prison for us women. We want to be loved and accepted and it seems the easiest way to do that is based on our outward appearance, right? The better it is, the more love we might receive.
Until, the day we don't.
It simply doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if I am wearing make-up or not. It doesn't matter what my weight is, my waist measurements or pant size. Not really. None of those things will determine or change the love Christ has for us. None of those things determine who we really are.
Yes, we want to be neat and attractive, of course. But Christ's love and acceptance is not based on anything we do or don't do. It's not reliant on our outward appearance. Our identity isn't either. We all know that beauty fades a mile a minute. It's all in the 'eye of the beholder'.
The only true reflection we will ever have of ourselves is the mirror of Christ, Himself. When we see our selves through the eyes of Christ, then and only then can we walk confidently and upright. Knowing we are truly, honestly loved and accepted for who we truly, honestly ARE.
We ARE made in His image. (Gen 1:27)
We ARE fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
We ARE all beautiful within. (Psalm 45:13)