Even (almost) two months after our trip to Guatemala, these words hit me like a brick every day. The beloved. I am His beloved.
It’s taken so much for me to accept that. It started happening in Guatemala, but honestly? It’s a reminder I need almost daily.
The truth is … I don’t feel very lovable. Or rather, I haven’t felt very lovable. I’m kind of a big mess, actually. But it was on that trip that I really embraced His love. It wasn’t the very first time, but it was the first time in a long time and wow. It was an amazing feeling.
Much of that unlovable feeling has to do with my own self-esteem and body image issues. Yep. I was a chunky kid, having to wear ‘husky’ sizes (who does that to a little girl? seriously clothing manufacturers … i detest you.) I was consistently overweight throughout elementary and junior high and then high school. I was active, for sure, but didn’t know when to say when and the truth is, I apparently really liked food. When I was in college, a girlfriend begged me to join Weight Watchers with her and I lost a good amount of the baby fat, but I think as it so often goes, I still saw a fat girl in the mirror. In fact, that next year I weighed less than I had in fifth-twelfth grades. I remained thin(ner) into my twenties and actually was okay with gaining weight during my pregnancy but after the fact, I was absolutely freaked out about losing what I’d worked so hard to lose five years prior. Even now, I have to stop myself from verbally punching myself if a mirror throws itself into my path. I’m convinced that’s when my evil twin takes her pot shots. She’s a nasty one; that one.
Now that we have that out of the way (and holy crap, I feel like I’ve said waaaaay too much) … I asked my mom to take a photo of me last weekend at the wedding we attended in Suttons Bay, Michigan. I was surrounded by God’s beauty and I had just snapped a couple photos of my uber-adorable parents when I figured I should get one of myself as well. It’s not often I get in front of a camera because, well, I don’t like the result most often. Sure, I take ‘selfies’ and ‘ussies’ (that’s totally a real thing) and I don’t always hate them, but it’s not a reflection of my whole self.
So, this is me.
When I first looked at the photo, I honed in on every flaw. Well, the neon green cast that’s barely visible was the first thing. But hey, that wasn’t my doing. I saw my crazy hair and then gave myself a bit of grace because it was windy and I did my hair with 1.5 hands (not that it looks loads better on any other day of the week). I have a front tooth that seems to stick out as I smile. I have some pretty severe lines on my face at this point … some from laughter, more from tears. My ears are kinda big. Thanks, Dad. Also, for as much as I’ve worked out, my arms look kinda flabby. Elbow fat is unpleasant. And then I look at the area below my waist and know how uncomfortable it all feels. And how I wear long dresses even if it’s 95 degrees … everything’s bigger in the South they say. Right? Right. Enough about that. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Anyway, I’m not sharing this photo as a way to fish for compliments. I don’t take them well anyway so it’s not really necessary. I’m sharing it because after I looked at it, I realized this is me. Right now. Elbow fat, big tooth and all. And if I learned anything in Guatemala, it’s that God adores me. He wants to call me His child and revel in the creation that He made. Someone I met there and really had no idea how critical I can be of myself told me that God wanted to put His face in His hands and just stare at me. At first I thought, ‘soooo ok, she’s crazy’ but then I took that comment along with everything else that happened in roughly a 72-hour period and I thought, ‘soooo, she’s totally right. i’m the crazy one.’ I AM lovable.
I often consider myself a work-in-progress but I guess that takes away from who I am in this moment. Because regardless of what I look like or what flaws I (think I) possess, God won’t love me any less. He also won’t love me any more. He just loves me. That’s amazing, right? Right. This last point is part of some commentary that we heard on our trip. One of our beloved AIM staff played a song by Jonathan David Helser called Inheritance. During one performance, he is accompanied by Graham Cooke who, I’m certain, was speaking to me. Maybe he could speak to you?
You should give the whole thing a listen, but below is some of his challenge that so deeply resonated with me:
And know this, you can only love Me as much as you love yourself. So My love comes this evening to set you free from yourself. To set you free from how you see yourself. To set you free from the smallness of your own thinking about yourself. My love comes to set you free from rejection and from shame and from low self-esteem and from despair and from abuse because when I look at you, I see something that I love. I see someone that I can love outrageously.
I have so much to bestow upon, so much to give you, so many places to take you in My heart. But you can’t go there unless you allow Me to love you…
The song begins with Jonathan singing:
I want your eyes … to be my mirror.
It’s crazy how much time I’ve spent looking at myself with disdain; whether it was in a mirror or in a photo or whatever. (Truth: I don’t own one single full-length mirror.) But when I look at myself as He might see me, I see an entirely different person; one who is worthy of love. So, as Graham says, “be loved,” and I realize it’s not that hard after all.