The word is used to describe a princess in a fairy tale; an actress on a magazine cover; the girl who makes guys gush as she passes them in the hall.
When I was a hefty middle-schooler, the thing I dreaded hearing most about myself was, “She has such a pretty face” — meaning the rest of me wasn’t pretty. Even though I dropped the weight, got some contacts to replace hot-pink frames and watched my teeth straighten out, I always heard the “p-word” associated with something I’d never be.
“She’s so tall and pretty.” At 4-feet 11 inches, that wasn’t music to my ears.
“Her hair is so long/short/curly/straight/dark/light … and pretty.” Whatever mine wasn’t, seemed to be what others considered pretty.
“She’s sooo skinny and pretty.” I wasn’t as skinny as she was …
… did that make me ugly?
By most people’s standards, my body is anything but pretty. I have a bone disease that has left me with legs that are slightly crooked and scarred. A curved spine has given me a big rib cage and a short stature. I’d like to say, “I accept this.. This is the way God made me, and I’m happy with myself.” But most often, I’m not. Many times I’ve gazed in the mirror so angry that God gave me a body like the one I’m in. Soft promises would run through my mind as I talked with God.
“Before the foundation of the world, I knew you.”
Did You know I would look this way?
“Before you were born, I set you apart.”
As what, a circus attraction?
“You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I love you.”
Fearfully about covers it.
I knew He thought I was beautiful, but I decided I didn’t comprehend His idea of beauty. I remember learning what He meant. On Thanksgiving break from college, I went with my former youth group to visit a shut-in. The group worked for a long time making food that was … well … edible, and I watched their smiling faces as they spoke louder for the old man to hear. My friend Catie belted out a tune that could rival Beyoncé. My brother, Chase, played a tune on his harmonica. Mr. Blevins’ eyes filled with tears as she shared his inspiring life of faith. So beautiful.
Another Snapshot of Beauty
I was brushing my teeth after my missions team had gotten back from a day in Rio de Janeiro. I heard the door open and looked to the side to see Katherine, one of the many people I came to love while I was there. A smile brightened her face as she told me about her day. “Guess what. We ate cow stomach!”
My first instinct? “Ewwww.” And I was secretly thinking, I hope my team doesn’t go there.
“Oh, I loved it,” she said, still aglow.
“You wubbed it?” I said, trying to talk with a toothbrush in my mouth.
“Well, maybe the food wasn’t great, but it made me feel like a real missionary.” Beautiful.
On another day in Rio, sadness turned to true joy at the dump. My team told about seeing vultures fight children for food, people skinning rats to eat… and the atrocious smell. But Laura’s take was different. “I loved it,” she said, a bold smile sweeping across her face. Sitting down on a pile of garbage and holding a little kid who worked there gave her new insight to God. “It reminded me of God’s love, because He was willing to come to me in all my garbage and sin — because He loved me — and just hold me.” Beautiful.
Genuine and Real
Ever stop to think about God’s definition of beautiful?
A servant’s heart.
If I stopped to think of all the garbage I convey in my actions and words, it would be a little scary. Am I for real? If I’m in love with God, people need to see it in more than just church attendance (or what I wear when I go).. They need to see more than a heart (or bracelet) advertising my faith. They need to see a life reflecting what Jesus did. They need to see someone who can’t wait to talk to God, who’s hungry for His Word, willing to reach out. That is beautiful.
We may all feel imperfect at times, but the next time you find yourself comparing the way you look to someone else or glaring at your braces (which, by the way, I think are the cutest), walk away from that mirror. Stop the compulsive exercising to lose weight. Shut the magazines that say you’re only pretty if you look the right way. Tune out guys who drool when they see movie stars.
Just shut your eyes and listen.
More precious than any fairy tale is this truth: Your Prince has spoken, “Before you were born . . . I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and I am so in love with you.”
You aren’t just pretty — you are beautiful.