This is me

“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.” Psalm 139 

Many people have written about self-image, and in truth we think about ourselves a lot whether we want to or not. We all struggle with acceptance and exert energies into creating equilibrium inside of us. The last couple of months, the rubbish that often fills my head has quietly begun to decompose-- a detox, that’s long overdue. This tendency to compare my looks to others rampages, but shrink my world down to the 5 people that I live with, add countless, unavoidable Zoom meetings that I have been a part of, and things happen.

As time goes on, I begin to relax and sit more comfortably in my own skin, reconciling this body, this face, these hands and feet as mine. Spilling my confession here is an effort to help lay to rest whatever is collectively holding us hostage. Why is it that we have no restraint against lies telling us to look a certain way? Our brains can’t seem to rally enough ammo to ward them off, and in our defeat we arrive at the belief that we are not perfect and lovely just the way we are. A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a book by Tim Keller, called: “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness”. If I could enlarge this book into human-size clothing and walk around wearing it, I would. It’s timeless and eureka-like words, were what I have been waiting for my whole life besides when I met my husband. He says this:

 “The way the normal human ego tries to fill it’s emptiness and deal with it’s discomfort is by comparing itself to other people. ALL THE TIME” (my emphasis added) 

The issue that I am trying to resolve constantly with no success, is that my ego is “empty” and I want to fill it. I had to read this a few times to let it sink in and I am laughing even now as I write this, because it’s so paradoxal. Returning to the definition indicates that it has a capacity to be either an inflated ego or a deflated one. Tim Keller also says this:

“If you try to put anything in the middle of the place that was originally made for God, it is going to be too small. It is going to rattle around in there.” 

I love that word “rattle”. I am always trying to fill my ego by attaining more things to be proud of. What’s embarrassing is that I know my true identity is created in God’s image, living it is the hard part-- I already am just as I should be. Plain and simple. The day that meiosis began to occur in my mother’s womb, my ego began to form too. The inclination is to fill it with everything the world teaches me is going to satisfy. But, contrary to this, God actually created that space for himself, because he knew that he would be the only thing that would completely and adequately fill it. If we break it down and put it in a sequence, this is what it may look like: empty ego, need to fill it, default to comparison, begin the cycle of inflating and deflating and ultimately I am caught in a never-ending loop.

So how do I break the cycle?-by not giving attention to ego itself. We are prone to fill, we are prone to stuff all of our accolades, social media likes and comments, good looks, and achievements into this space, but consequently it will never be enough because we can’t establish balance. When we find something else that we need to attain, the madness will begin again. Maybe you think this is the goal--to be a high achiever, of course why not try to accomplish more and more?! The problem is in the fact that it’s never enough. We are walking around with gaping wounds inside of us even if we are experts at hiding it. Criticism or lack of recognition, oh well. Praise and pats on the back, oh well. These aren’t the things that should be occupying our ego. Our identity is already secured in God, the rest is just stuff.

So, in the corner of my dresser-mirror, there is a picture of my mom-mom (mom’s mom). I have had it there for years, as a keepsake, since she is sadly not with us anymore. In this unmistakably candid photo, it’s as if she were telling me herself that our face isn’t as important as we think it is. A year or so after she passed away, I remember having a dream of her saying to me how youthful her skin was(It was as if she were right there, truly present, uncontained by my subconscious). To me it was a vision I will hold dear until the day I join her. This is the priceless secret she willed to me—My body will fail over time, It will age, It will become worn with lines and imperfections will shout out their presence louder and louder each time I look at myself in the mirror, but it’s just a container that holds my soul. Youth will be restored, someday beyond my time on earth. For now it's beautiful in every way. I loved mom-mom, I loved that she could hug me with her words and smile even if her arms weren’t around me, that she always wanted me close, and this has far more worth to me than her face. No matter what features I have or don’t have, I belong to a heritage, a mash-up of all kinds of people, this is me.

Most of my childhood years were spent in a Mennonite church where older women wore cape dresses of plain colors or small ditsy prints. They tucked their hair in buns and covered it with a doily. Although generations had become more progressive and I saw women in modern dresses or even pants at church, these women were far from concerned with vanity and I respected them more for it. These were the ladies that knew hymns without opening a hymnal— their bibles were worn and embossed with their names and their faith was a defining piece of their identity. They were women that raised leaders who became influential in my life.

I am girly, I like makeup, I like to look nice, but with regard to my face and my body, and my hair, I’d like to say “to hell with it.” Not because I am ashamed of it, nor because I am ultra-conservative, but because I simply don’t want to draw attention to it. It shouldn’t be as important as I think it is. I will care for it, and I will keep it clean, and healthy and I will dress it up as a way to respect this gift that God gave me, but as for the snubs I may get, or the disappointments, or feeling left out, or feeling not enough, these are the things that I need to wash off and leave behind so that I can thrive just as I am without being tethered to a need to be anything else or appear any different. I am certain if we all let God search our hearts we would find holes that we tried to fill with other junk besides what he intended. It’s time to let those go and practice the discipline of forgetting ourselves a little more and just giving thanks for who we are.


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