I spent some time listening to my best friend yesterday... her heart for simplicity, and namely her desire to be free of the concern she realizes she has of what others think of her. She is slowly eliminating distractions from her life that keep her from walking closer with her Savior and genuinely loving and serving others. She decided to keep her makeup bag zipped on Mondays this month, and invited us to join her.
Best friend listened to me when I asked her to consider writing every day for 31 days. She took me up on the challenge without hesitation. And now it's my turn to listen to her.
I've been listening to my spirit, but more importantly, The Spirit, as I've vacillated between feeling excited to band together with other female friends and brave the day freshly scrubbed, and feeling absolutely insecure about my untouched appearance. You know, I'm pregnant right now. And for me that means my skin reverts to 13-year-old-Ashley. Pimples everywhere. A nice big infected one on my nose. Little purple pools under my swollen eyes. Redness along my jawline. And because I'm blond, my eyebrows and eyelashes simply disappear without powders and liners crayons and mascara to bring them to life. My freckles are much more obvious. There's no hiding the oily skin without a little pressed powder. This was all much easier to deal with over the summer, when I went makeup free as often as possible and didn't have baby-creating hormones coursing through my body. And oh the sun! How it tanned my imperfect skin. Yes I was free and easy this summer.
I wish I had more confidence in my appearance, as it is naturally. But mostly, what I wish is this: that I could see myself the way God sees me. I wish I had the courage to walk into church on Sunday fresh faced and ready to worship in my community, without being distracted by insecurity. That what matters most to The Lord would matter the most to me. The heart is important to me, but if I am brutally honest, sometimes the way I look matters more. (Grace, please? This honesty hurts.) Today is a baby step, in that my sisters and I are attending an event at our church this morning called Moms Together. After I told Kacey I'd join her, I had that stabbing realization that I wouldn't be able to hide out at home or in overly public places (thus remaining fairly anonymous) but that I'd be parading (what feels like) my half-naked self into a gym of a hundred or so women that I know and see almost daily. Women I put my best foot forward for. And this is the kind of gathering I'd usually wear something a little nicer for, and you know, the cute earrings and a little extra eye makeup.
As I type, I realize that although some of you may be nodding in agreement or understanding, it sounds ridiculous and I am feeling so embarrassed. Maybe even a little ashamed. Because this my friends? This is not the heart I want to have. This isn't the heart I thought I had! A little soap and the willingness to set my mask aside this morning has acted like a flashlight in the crawlspace of my heart. Hello there, dark cold corner. Let's get you out in the open.
I am starting to realize that in my culture, in this community I live in, we are taught how to be presentable. But somewhere along the way, presentable morphed into this nonnegotiable and shaped my heart and mind. More like distorted it to the point that the one place and the one community that I consider the most important and genuine in my life has rarely if ever seen me without at least one of the many defenses I put on or put up in order to feel like I am enough.
Does anyone else struggle with feeling like they are enough? Am I the only one who compensates for what I feel like I am lacking? I know I'm not, because as I extended the invitation to other women last night to brave today sans-makeup, I was met with the same timid "I'm in! And I'm petrified..." responses that mirrored my own heart.
So here's the thing. I've been listening to others for too long. Some have been well-intended. Some have simply wanted to help enhance any natural beauty I have. Some love me so much that they want me to go through life being loved by those I end up living in community with, and in this broken world we live in, people find it easier to love that which is lovely externally. We don't snuggle up to messes or stink or things that are infected.
But the truth is, this is the condition of my heart. It's messy. It's stinky. It's an infected mass that I can hide inside this shell of a body I walk around in. I can dress that shell up and dye it, trim it, shave it, pierce it, clip it, paint it, botox it, scrub it, moisturize it, and cleanse it all I want. But that doesn't change what's beneath the shell.
And what's beneath the shell is what God says is most important. He made all of it, and charged us with taking care of it. But I think I've moved beyond care-taking as a motivation for what I do every morning and before I go out to meet up with others. I've stepped beyond appropriate hygiene and taking care of myself, and moved into the realm of overcompensating for what I perceive to be my weaknesses, shortcomings and inadequacy.
So this morning I am listening to what God says about me. Because my view of myself is pretty messed up, as far as I can tell. Whether I am objectively beautiful by the world's standards or not is so far from the point. What I think about myself, whether I am listening to what God says about who I am... that is what's important. And where I find myself left of center.
So... to centering our thoughts and hearts on Things Above - namely, what God says about us.
Based on what Psalm 139 says...
- God created me (vs 13). And because He's God? That means He did a perfect job. He is intentional, purposeful in all He attends to, and is the Great Artist. It means I'm unique, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece that no one will ever be exactly like, inside and out (vs 14). It also means I am HIS. Anyone who has ever created anything knows that you own and have rights to what you create. And while we're at it, not only does he own me as His creation, but He paid the price for my redemption when He sent His Son Jesus to the cross to die. So He bought me back from death, too. I'm doubly His. I simply cannot understand the depth of His love when I think about it this way.
- God has always seen me for exactly who I am (vs 15-16). I cannot hide from Him, there is no mask that can cover me when He looks upon me. He knows everything about me, including my spirit AND my external activities... I am familiar to Him (vs 1-4).
- God made a plan for my life before He formed my body (vs 16). Who I am is so important to Him that He created that part of me, my spirit, before He created my physical body.
- God goes before me, behind me, and lays His hand upon me (vs 5). It is in Him and because of Him alone that I can have confidence, rest and peace. His Spirit is always with me (vs 7-10).
- The darkness is not dark to God, and the night shines like the day (vs 11-12). Nothing is hidden from God. This includes the dark parts of my heart - He sees them as if they were out in the open!
Based on Genesis 1...
- God made me in His image, and I reflect His nature (vs 26-27).
- He looked upon the creation of the first man, Adam, and He said that it was very good (vs 31).
Based on Genesis 2...
- It's not good for us to be alone/isolated (vs 18). We need each other.
- We were not originally created to live in shame (vs 25).
And you know what else I just learned? That when I'm facing something that is uncomfortable, that pushes me, and threatens who I thought I was... If I run first to God, to His Word, and seek Him in that place of uncertainty, He can speak the Truth to me in a way that brings more freedom, more confidence, and more joy than a bag full of MAC ever could.
And now I'm late to dropping the kids off for school for all this time I've spent scouring my Bible for nuggets of Truth that I can't get enough of... which means no time to reread this and edit it.
Scary, much?! Hello, internet. Here's who I really am. Unedited in so many ways.
Grace to each of you today, you beauties.