I used to feel beautiful.
Being athletic, it was easy to stay in shape even though struggling with weight has always been a issue. I remember my first diet in forth grade. My sister and I would arrive from school every afternoon to eat a pop tart. We were home on furlough for a year and there were no pop tarts in Zambia. We could not eat enough of them. My mother must have noticed we were getting pudgy as she began making taco salads to replace the pop tarts. Little did we know in those days the true calories and fat grams in a salad! When we returned to Africa after that year of furlough I got into sports.
I played high school basketball and cheered in college. Then I discovered my body was perfect for building muscle. Next came the intense training for a body building competition. My stomach was like a washboard and I was used by gym instructors to shame the men who came in lifting half the weight I did. My muscles budged. I felt beautiful!
Later I begin running marathons. The muscles weren’t as big but the joy of running mile after mile, faster and faster, breaking previous records and winning medals made up for all that. I felt beautiful and invincible.
Five years ago I pretty much gave up all exercise. Having migraines that were definitely exertion induced, I finally accepted the fact that denying myself what I most enjoyed was unavoidable. If I wanted to live to see my children age I had to stop the pain medication that all too frequently entered my blood system and was undoubtedly damaging my kidneys and liver.
Five years later, thirty pounds heavier, no longer sporting the athletic body, I don’t feel beautiful anymore.
All these thoughts crash into my mind like waves on the sand. Youthfulness comes and goes like the tide. Images of beauty wax and wane with the moon. Our own expectations crash against the sand. Some things we can control: yet some are at the mercy of the ocean of time.
Yet God says I am beautiful today, more beautiful than before. For my heart is softer and more committed than when I had the rock hard body of a weight lifter. My heart is steadfast and has more strength to endure now than the body that ran even ultra marathons. My heart is filled with more love and mercy than the young woman who served with all her bodily energy. Years and life have humbled me and God finds that far more attractive than the self confident woman of my youth.
The bible says our beauty should be “that of our inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.. That is of great worth in God’s sight.” (I Peter 3:4) True beauty begins with God at the center of our lives and that beauty extends outwards. As we accept Christ’s forgiveness, He transforms the ugliness of our heart and begins to purify us, making the hardness turn to gentle beauty. This beauty has nothing to do with outward appearance or age.
Even though I am not perfect, I’ve come a long way and my heart is sincere in it’s desire to let him transform me from the inside out. God knows I am trying to please Him and I believe He looks beyond my imperfections and sees the beauty.
This means I should feel beautiful. I would like to look athletic and strong on the outside but I don‘t. However, I know my heart is steadfast. Does that mean I should say, “I feel beautiful”?