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Girl on swing

I needed a head shot for the back of my book. During the photo shoot, the photographer told me about the number of women in their 40’s and 50’s she has listened to bemoan their appearance. That same week, while visiting some friends, there was an exchange about aging and someone postulated that those who are considered beautiful have a harder time growing old because they have farther to fall.

I thought about these two conversations, about wrinkles, and the way we – both men and women – view the aging process. I remember that as a child I thought wrinkles were beautiful, especially the smile lines around aging eyes. It’s sad that something so natural and inevitable should be something we’re ashamed of. I wondered why so we often don’t feel beautiful – really at any age – and why we’re so desperately trying to appear young. I could think of 5 reasons:

1. We have a corrupt view of true beauty born from dissatisfaction. Marketing campaigns tell us that to be accepted we must look young, fit, and beautiful, wear the right clothes and expensive jewelry, drive the right car, and smell fantastic. And we’re busy chasing after all of that because we believe them. It has become all-important, and we have become more and more insecure and dissatisfied with ourselves. As a result, we’ve lost our ability to notice truly beautiful things, exchanging them instead for the fleeting and the superficial.

2. We compare ourselves to others. Dissatisfaction also seeps in when we play the comparison game. When we make a habit of comparing, we fail to celebrate the endless variety and forms of beauty found in ourselves and others, and end up feeling dissatisfied with ourselves or our lives. It’s this dissatisfaction that steals our peace. It drives us to want more and be more, instead of feeling comfortable in our own skin and enjoying the unique beauty found in every human being.

3. We struggle to love ourselves. Perhaps you were bullied, or told you were ugly, or worse. When we look in the mirror and think we look ugly, or are tempted to believe the lie that tells us we aren’t enough or are worthless, we need to fight back. Here’s the truth: true beauty far exceeds your exterior appearance, or any label or insult you were given. God has infused our lives with His love, and that love has made us so much more beautiful in the unseen places that any make-up, wrinkle cream, fancy clothes, or photoshopped image ever could.

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.  ~ 1 Samuel 16:7

But there’s more. When we meet God, He changes us from the inside-out, and continues to do so until our last breath. He offers His healing and love to every area of our lives, both seen and unseen. We were made in His image and that makes us infinitely precious. When we accept that we are accepted, we can begin to love ourselves and grow in confidence far beyond appearances.

4. We have an identity crisis. When our identity in God is secure, it’s difficult to be insecure. It’s not a bad thing to wish to be attractive – and most of us make an effort to do so – or to notice beauty in another. It’s when our exterior becomes our primary focus and ultimate goal that it begins to tamper with our true identity, our true beauty, and the freedom we find in Christ. When we believe we are unconditionally loved by Him, and that His love isn’t based on anything we’ve done or failed to do, our identity grows secure in Him. The pomp of the world becomes a lot less shiny, and we care less and less about how others perceive us. We relate to others more openly and freely, seeing them instead as one of God’s walking, breathing masterpieces and His prized possessions. We come to see ourselves the same way. Paradoxically, the less anxious we are about our exterior, the more beautiful we become.

5. We forget to be thankful for the living, breathing, creative masterpieces that we are. That leaves us feeling empty, no matter the full bellies, full closets, or full wallets. All of the stuff fails to satisfy us. Until we begin to be grateful. Until we understand that we are loved by God and made with a purpose for a purpose. Then we begin to be made beautiful through and through.

Let’s choose to celebrate the beautiful, marvelous, miraculous, and unique human beings God has made us to be, use our resources (time, talents, and finances) to build up things that won’t fade but that last in eternity. Let’s choose to be so securely tucked in God’s unconditional love that true beauty can be seen in us and we can glimpse it in others.

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  1. What do you think it would take to make you feel more beautiful?
  2. Of the list above, which area do you most struggle with?
  3. Try to set aside daily time with God and let Him secure your identity and self-worth.
  4. Write a list of the beautiful things you are thankful for.

 

 

 

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Diamond heart

I’m just going to put it out there. You are valuable.

I don’t care how long it took you to finish your homework, that you failed grade ten math – twice, that you don’t have over 500 Instagram followers, a diploma or letters after your name, a lucrative job, or feel successful. None of that takes away from the fact that you are valuable.

It’s no accident that you find yourself on the earth at this particular period of history, or that you are alive at all for that matter. Despite what you may have been told or believed, you aren’t an accident. You were made to not only be alive at this point in time, but to also to be a difference maker.

You should also know that your worth isn’t composed of the things you have accomplished, or failed to accomplish. You are loved with a ‘just because’ kind of love that says I created you in my image and died to save you for eternity. Do you feel a little more valuable now?

Think about this: the Creator of the universe fashioned you in His likeness and wanted you to be with Him when your earthly days come to an end, so He made a way through His Son Jesus – because you matter that much to Him. That makes you valuable and LOVED.

Going back to the fact that you are living on the earth right now, as I mentioned, that’s not an accident. There are things here for you to do, that only you can do, in the way only you can do them. It doesn’t matter if you think those things aren’t all that spectacular. They matter both here and in eternity.

I imagine collective breaths held in heaven, soundless in anticipation of witnessing the working out of things only you can do, and then massive celebrations when you do them – from the seemingly insignificant to the prize-winning. The smallest brush stroke, to the celebrated masterpiece. The bridge-building handshake, to the freeing act of forgiveness. The belly laughter of a child, to the comedian’s crafted humour. The band-aid applied to a skinned knee, to the surgeon’s careful stitches. Reminding an Alzheimer’s sufferer of their name, to declaring the name of Jesus. All displays of wonder to be celebrated from here to heaven.

So don’t be afraid to do that thing you do. From barefoot dancing to belly dancing and beyond, do it in the way that only you can. And don’t wait to hear the human hand-clapping – the applause from heaven will be much sweeter. Just use your unique gifts while you still have breath, because it not only makes your Father in heaven smile, it might even make someone’s day.

You are valuable. You matter. You are uniquely gifted. You are loved. Out of the 7.6 billion people on earth, there is no another person out there who can do the things you do in precisely the way you do them. So get to it!

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  ~ Matthew 10:29-31

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  1. Are you believing the lie that says you are worthless? Ask God to show you how He sees you, and let Him free you to be all He created you to be. Psalm 139 is a great reminder of how you are loved.
  2. What is something you have to offer this world. What gift or talent can you use to make a difference?
  3.  Champion others by encouraging the gifts and talents you see in them.

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