I wrote a blog post the other day about the way God has set me free in the area of beauty. The post was completely honest and accurate ("I Am Ugly," I Said To The Mirror"). And yet at the same time, very importantly, I need to clarify something:
Believing God's voice about physical beauty DOES NOT MEAN THAT I DO NOT STRUGGLE WITH BEAUTY.
I DO struggle with beauty. Still. Frequently. And yet I count myself SET FREE in the area of physical beauty in a way that I was previously chained up.
This is a very important principle for me. My struggle does not negate my freedom.
Let me see if I can explain what I mean somewhat succinctly.
For me, the process of Jesus 'changing my mind' about me being ugly or beautiful, shameful or a work of art put together on purpose, was both a long process and a momentary process. It happened over lots of years where He started teaching me truths, but then He would hammer home those truths in moments where, because of the circumstances, I would be set free in a kind of violent and very emotional, new way.
If you've ever had experiences where Jesus changes something in your life in a moment, you'll understand this: it feels like that new freedom will easily last forever. But it's actually very easily lost. It feels so significant that you think you'll never, ever forget it, but then a week, two weeks, three weeks go by, and you're kind of back at your default, doing the same things again, even forgetting the wording of the new truths you learned a month ago.
That's where struggle and fighting enter in.
I know that Jesus has set me free in the area of beauty. I know what is true about me, about women, about the Creator. But I'll tell you what. The world, our culture, and even other women SCREAM at me ALL DAY LONG. Every day. They don't scream verbally, but the images of advertisements, the stream of a culture's collective consciousness about beauty and consequent actions out of that belief system...it all SCREAMS at me, at you. Non stop. Telling me that I'm not good enough. That I'm fat. That I'm ugly. That if I just buy these clothes, if I just buy this product, if I just lose 15 pounds, if I just do this, or that, or THAT...THEN I'll be pretty. Then I'll be worthy. Then I'll be beautiful.
Everyday the temptation is there to lose my freedom.
And it's a struggle. A very difficult, emotional struggle.
Because most of my life, I followed those voices of the world, of our culture. So my default is to believe them. They're comforting. They're familiar. But to hold on to my freedom in Christ, what He has done in my life, I've got to fight for it. I've got to reject the voices that tell me I'll be pretty 'if' and 'when.' I've got to believe the voice of GOD.
Here's what it looks like for me: I go through my day. I don't necessarily feel beautiful automatically. I see what other women look like around me. I see what they're wearing. I see lots of people's efforts to become good enough. I see advertisements and images of what a woman should be and needs to have and do to attain prettiness all around me, every day. And there is something deep inside me that wants to follow all those voices of counsel. It's very strong. And I often find myself mindlessly following. But then I remind myself of what God says is true, what I can't quite see with my eyes:
...That I'm messed up in my perception of what beauty even is. I've been fed these lies that feminine physical beauty is ONLY skinny, tan, big in some places and small in others...you know the list. It's very specific. And it's very wrong. And I look away from the list, and I remind myself that I actually already am good enough.
I am actually already am beautiful. Not because of what I've done to become so, but because of God making me so. He formed me.
So, practically, what I have to do is, I have to chose to stop.
I choose to look into the little car mirror on the way to church and NOT put on that next layer of powder even though something deep inside feels like I NEED to, like it's not that big of a deal, and yet at the same time, I won't be complete or ready without it. I choose that I am good enough, I am OK, I am beautiful, already.
I choose to consider other women with kindness in the way that I dress and not push myself internally to dress the best, have the cutest outfit, be the most unique. I can enjoy my clothes happily and just be me and me is enough, is plenty. I don't have to outshine anyone to be good enough, to prove anything or be worthy.
I choose to stop believing a whole mindset that I don't measure up, and that I both will never measure up, and yet could maybe one day measure up if I would just do these certain things...That's just a bunch of compelling lies from the pit of hell called 'perfectionism.' It's the belief system that if I can just get perfect, nothing painful will happen to me, but if anything painful DOES happen, it's my fault because I haven't been perfect enough to avoid it.
I choose to stop rejecting parts of me that I think are 'unacceptable' or ugly. I choose to embrace ALL of me as made-by-God; I choose to treat all of me with kindness. I choose to stop berating myself for not being better.
I choose to stop looking at other women with comparison or envy in my eyes. I believe in my heart that they, as well, are crafted physically by God. They are image-bearers. They are worth celebrating. They are not for completing against.
So when I say that I 'have been set free,' I still am very much entrenched in this culture that wants to squelch and squash out the image of God that is displayed through a woman's physical beauty. I have to use strength and effort to follow the salvation path my Savior leads me on. It's not easy.
But the fact that I fight, that I struggle, doesn't mean that I'm not free.