I have a complicated relationship with the word beautiful.
The first time I remember telling myself I was fat was in junior high.
I’d like to think it had to do with a changing body and hormones, but I don’t think that was it.
There is something about being suddenly aware of boys that throws a girl into new beliefs about herself. I’d like that not to be true – and it may not be an issue for some of you out there – but for many of us that’s just the way it is, and we need to be honest about that. From a very early age, our beauty is tied up in the relationships around us. It actually makes me want to cry a little bit, that our beauty would be wrapped up in what a someone thinks of us. There is something off there, something so connected to the way it’s supposed to be, but not quite right, and it’s hard to figure it all out, so we plunge ahead on weird courses trying to make ourselves feel better,
trying to find beautiful.
In high school, I remember exercising for beauty, rather than health or strength for the first time. Maybe if I did just the right amount of sit ups I would feel better. I remember healthily and not healthily saying no to chips and Snickers bars and pop, because maybe then I’d be pretty and my hips would stop making pants so dang difficult.
I thought with marriage my body image issues would be better. With a husband to tell me I’m beautiful, what can go wrong? That pit of disdain (or at least discomfort) when I weighed myself or looked in the mirror would melt away in the arms of someone who loved me unconditionally.
But it didn’t get better.
Shocker, but a man didn’t solve my problems.
Even as an adult, the word beautiful played games in my head, taunting me with something I’d never be.
I’m not girly.
I’m not graceful.
I’m not good with my hair.
I like food a lot.
And then, one day I turned to my left and saw my daughter. The words taunting me, I heard from her mouth. That was when I demanded that something had to give. I pleaded with God to help me. Lord, I want her to see beautiful in herself, in her friends, in me… instead of maybe ok.
God’s answer, as always, was the Word of God. He picked me up, dusted off my shame, and sent me to the Scriptures.
When I studied and then wrote through the Song of Songs, I began to see that beauty has a lot less to do with pretty and a lot more to do with strength than we think. It has to do with a Savior, and is more intimately connected to His sacrifice and death than I can wrap my head around. It has to do with honor and kindness, even when it holds onto its very physical properties.
And it’s relational.
No wonder I struggled with my beauty based on boys. We understand beautiful in relationship – any and all relationships, romantic, friendship, or familial. That, I believe, is Scriptural Truth.
Healing our beliefs about the word beautiful will be changed in the Word, yes, but God is teaching me that it is also changed in community with each other – in friendship, in life together, in calling out beautiful where we see it, and in proclaiming God’s workmanship in one another – not just to our daughters, but to one another’s daughters, to wives, and to women everywhere.
If you have a complicated relationship with the word beautiful, here is what I want to tell you:
God makes beautiful and God defines beautiful, I don’t get to. I want to believe Him instead, be covered by Him instead of my own ideas about my body and myself and this one word – beautiful,
but we can only do that together.
I’ll never conquer this by myself. Our brains weren’t designed for that. The battle wasn’t meant to be lonely.
Dig out your phone. Text a friend. Tell them they are beautiful. Sing it over them. They need you and in the midst of that, God will heal this weirdness about beauty and beautiful and boys and all of it.
Altogether beautiful, friends.
Let’s help each other begin to believe it.