Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Beautiful

Hello, Lord.

I've just read something a friend has written about being beautiful.

Beautiful. Beautiful in your eyes. Accepting of herself, just as she is. 

I feel quite unsettled. 

I know that you love me. I know that you made me, and I know that you don't make mistakes. I know that I am precious to you. Beautiful? 

Sometimes I look in the mirror and if I'm having a good hair day, and I've taken a minute or two to put on some make-up, and the light is right - I think that maybe I'm not too bad. From certain angles. I've often thought about how film stars and actresses are supposed to be fully aware of the most flattering angle to have a picture taken from. The best expression. I know about screen tests and directors advising them on how to look their best on camera. Do I have a best side? I suppose I'm as vain as the next person; on occasion (when I was much younger, though, honestly) I confess that I might have turned this way and that to try to establish if I was nicer looking from one angle or another but I've never really found out. And now as the crows' feet get deeper and the wrinkles set in for the long haul I suspect that this particular ship has sailed.

Now THERE'S beauty.
I don't like the way I look. I can't see beauty when I look in the mirror. I almost never see a picture of me that doesn't make me cringe. I need whiter teeth, to lose a lot of weight. Better posture. More style. Don't get me wrong; I'm so, so much better than I was; so much less self conscious really, but thinking about beauty has woken up some insecurities that I thought I had at least partly put to bed.

I'm not sure that I'm all that beautiful on the inside, either. I know that your light is supposed to shine through me, and I know that on occasion, it does. A bit like a lighthouse, suddenly splitting the darkness, dazzling across the sea - sometimes you fill me with a Spirit that can't be contained and comes spilling out. I am pretty dark, though, most of the time. Lots of dangerous-looking rocks lurking there under the water level. 

Beautiful?

Some time ago a close friend and I went to a Christian lady who did image consultations and advised us on the colours that most suited us and flattered our skin and hair tones. I had only been with her a few minutes and as she talked about beauty I started to cry. I didn't anticipate crying - I was curious about my colours in a girly sort of way and didn't feel intimidated or threatened or anything like that. She spoke about an experience that she had where you told her how beautiful she was. Today my friend wrote about a similar experience. I know that you love me and I know that you don't judge beauty in terms of dress size or wrinkles or stretch marks or cellulite. 

What am I saying? That I'd quite like divine reassurance that you think I'm beautiful? I don't know. That I'd like you to help me get rid of the chip on my shoulder about my size? I don't know. 

I can't help thinking that you made me to be different from the way I am; that like everyone I started out with a body that was just as you wanted it to be but as the years have passed I've neglected to look after it as I should and now I am too heavy with achey hips and furrows in my forehead from too much frowning. It makes me ashamed that I am where I am when things could have been different. Maybe I might have been beautiful if only I'd have followed the Maker's instructions.  My problem is that I like eating and I'm good at it. I've had lots of practice. I don't like exercise. I'm not very good at that. I look at my children with their perfect, beautiful, energetic little bodies and I realise that I started out with the same potential. You blessed me with a body with nothing wrong with it and I messed it up.

I know, I know, it works, for the main part. My body has given birth to two breathtakingly lovely children and fed them for a long time. I can walk and hug my girls and sing to you and think. Over-think, in fact. I know all this and I'm grateful. But...but...

Sigh. 

Beauty on the inside? I worry about that too. I think that sometimes I am full of discontent and selfishness and bad temper and that must show as certainly as a person's happiness and joy and positivity make them glow. 

Listen, I'm tired and I need to go to sleep. I suspect that you're not going to get too much joy and positivity from me tonight. I was at soft play with the children for nearly four hours today and have been nursing a mild headache since early afternoon. I should shut up and put out the light.

Lord, nudge me onto the right track, will you? Either do the miraculous so that I wake up tomorrow a few stone lighter and not so wobbly (I like this option) or help me not to be so critical and self-conscious. Alternatively, help me motivate myself to do something about it. (Again. Sigh.) Or give me a glimpse of me as you see me, if you think that would help. I'm not sure exactly what I'm asking there, so if that's a wholly inappropriate request then please do what is good for me instead. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it? 

I know that my husband finds me attractive. I know that my friends love me and would reassure me. I just can't believe it. I don't feel it. Does that matter?  Maybe I'm asking the wrong question. Maybe it doesn't matter what I believe. 

All I know is that this thing is a Big Thing for me. How I feel about myself. How the way I feel so embarrassed about myself affects my relationships, my confidence, my self-esteem.  I feel a little tonight as if I've been working on this forever and I've taken steps forward over the past couple of years and recently a few strides backwards. Nothing is too difficult for you, Lord. Help me past this one. 

I would like to be beautiful. 

Not necessarily film star beautiful, but with the sort of beauty that comes from within. I know that's a cliche but I've seen people who have this beauty and it isn't the perfectly-spaced eyes, clear skin, dimple and sensuous pout sort of beauty - it's much harder to describe. It is something good. Something attractive, something charismatic. The sort of person that draws you to them. Someone you want to be with. Someone who has something. Beauty. 

Help me with the self-pity and the self-consciousness and the self-absorption, Lord.  There are children in the world who don't have enough to eat. People who don't have homes to go to when the night is as cold as it is tonight. People who are afraid to speak out loud to you, their God, in case they are arrested and tortured for their faith. And here am I wittering on about wanting to be pretty. 

Sorry.

Take the jumble in my head, Father God, and rearrange it into something that honours you. Take the good desires and do something with them, and help me find a bin for the selfish ones. Help me stop scrutinising myself and look outwards at the wonder and breathtaking gorgeousness of your world. 

And help me stop putting so much butter on my toast and get down to the swimming pool more often. 

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