Saturday, October 4, 2008

Whatever Is Lovely

"Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible's astounding words about God's love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?" Philip Yancey

Recently, I had a discussion with a friend who was having a hard time believing the truth that she's beautiful. It reminded me of this age-old struggle of woman in my own life and how much God has delivered me from.

I grew up, like many, with a very low self-esteem. This bred with societal influences and circumstances to create in me the common belief among young women that I wasn't pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or, in short, perfect enough.

Then I got married to a man who seemed each day to see the beauty in me. It was nice. This guy who each day thought I was pretty, smart, wonderful, and beautiful, even when it seemed quite obvious to me that I was quite otherwise. Even so, I accepted this love.

But we both realized at some point that I really didn't believe him. He would tell me he thought I was beautiful, but some far-back part of my head was saying, "He's just trying to be nice," or "He's just really biased and, clearly, blind." It's completely illogical, but my brain subconciously decided it was easier to believe that my husband was either delusional or a liar than believe that I might be beautiful. Mike, obviously, was not flattered by this.

But even when I persisted in doubting either his taste or veracity, he persisted in believing I was beautiful--mind, body, and soul--and telling me so.

I'm a slow learner. But eventually, it seems, I was taught. My resistance was slowly worn down, and at some point, I now realize, I started belieiving him. Believing that I'm smart and pretty and valuable. And now, because of his Christ-like love and persistance, I am more of the confident, capable, beautiful woman I was created to be.

A part of me whispers, "but isn't that just vain and prideful, believing in yourself and your beauty? But I'm struck by how, since I've started ignoring the lies that I'm worthless and instead started believing what is lovely about me, I'm so much less self-focused and self-consumed. How much time did I waste worrying about myself? Without the constant fretting about my own merit, I'm able to focus on others, no longer caring who's the prettiest woman in the room. I'm able to serve others because I no longer doubt that God created me wonderfully in order to bless others. I'm able to be a joy to Mike because I know that's what I am to him.

"A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest...She exudes a sense of calm; a sense of rest; and invites those around her to rest as well. She speaks comfort; that all is well; that all will be well. A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become. In her presence, one can release the tight sigh that so often grips our hearts, and breathe in the truth that God loves us and he is good." Stasi Eldredge

I'm far from the point of inviting other women into a sense of rest in my presence, but I thrill at the fact that God is slowly refining me to be more like this woman, and I remember how much God has delivered me from in the past. From a woman who could offer no peace to others because she had none with herself, to a woman who can bless others with who she is because she is no longer obsessively concerned with who she is.

I'm far from perfected. But thank you, God, for your patience and love and perseverance with me. And thank you, Michael, for being the embodiment of such faithful and sacrificial love.


Amber said...

P.S. Thanks to Jon the Hart for this picture of me and Mike, looking like a mutant ostrich.

Jon The Hart said...

I hate the doubt that causes us to equate good self-esteem with pridefulness. It's hard to find that spot where we truly value God's view of us above anyone elses.

It's like me being called elitist for acknowledging that I'm pretty dang smart.

And it's kinda like high school, if you aren't influenced by others opinions of you and don't feel compelled to compare yourself to everyone else then you are the epitome of cool.

And thank you two for putting up with me for the weekend and driving all over creation, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Tara said...

Amber, I am glad you finally realized what we have all known for many, many years. You are awesome and I love how you give us thought provoking posts along with all of the goofy ones. It tends to put life in perspective after reading them.