There is a particular day that sticks out in my mind when my daughter was very young, and she was dancing and moving about with her friend of the same age. The other girl had beautiful fair curly hair, bouncing delicately on her head. She was also slim and had an infectious smile. My daughter had straight, short hair, was a little chubby, but she loved to smile too. Someone standing close to me was enjoying watching the girls, and he turned to me and said, “Isn’t it great that young children can dance freely, without worrying if they look good or not.” I laughed and agreed with him, although what I had ‘heard’ him say was that when my daughter got older, she would recognize that she was not as culturally beautiful as her friend. He did not actually say anything that differentiated between the girls, yet to me it was clear, one girl was culturally beautiful, and one girl, my daughter, was not so beautiful. And where was the problem here? It was me.
Visiting different countries is not just interesting because of the architecture there, the nature we cannot normally see in our own area, or the changes in temperature. Cultures are different too, and that can be very eye opening. It is not just the different ideas of what a beautiful girl looks like, it’s the recognition of how I am so intrenched in my own culture. It is not a matter of what is right and what is wrong in beauty, it is a matter of how we have been trained to see beauty. And I have to admit that a lot of my training has come from the media. It is not just about beauty either. Generally, the media has taught me that young, slim and beautiful is the best. Old, fat, slow, well, they are not so valuable. Not according to the media, at least.
My mind needs renewing. I need to learn how God sees people. I have started. In fact, when recently I was upset with my husband I went to prayer. I asked the Lord what he thought about my husband. Guess what – the Lord really loves my husband and sees so many good things in him! And it really helped me to hear about those things, rather than being annoyed because he had neglected to do something for me that he had promised to do. He forgot. I forgave him and was able to move on, because he has so many good characteristics.
I look in the mirror and see an old face staring back at me. I ask the Lord what he thinks of me, and he says I am beautiful. As I learn to receive what God says, rather than what my culture might say, I am in a better place to recognize how God sees those around me.
When our son was young, we taught him this song: I like myself, I like myself, and Jesus likes me too. I like myself, I like myself, and so should you. Today we are taught not to like ourselves – we’re too old, too young, too tall, too short, too fat, too thin, too fast, too slow … and the list goes on. But our God wants us to like ourselves. I ask the Lord what he likes about me, and he tells me that he likes that I dance for him (but I am not a dancer), he likes that I smile a lot, he likes that I pray for others, he likes that I try to please my husband, he likes that I spend time with him, and this list also continues. I could write another list of what I am not good at, but God wants me to see the good side of who I am, because he does.
As I learn to see the beauty in who I am, I find it easier to see the beauty in others. And the beauty I see is not a cultural beauty, it is a God given beauty. Pray with me to have our eyes open to see beyond our culture and into what really matters.