“Yikes. This isn’t going to work!”
I peeled the shirt off and put it back on the hanger. I wasn’t a fan of how boxy and shapeless it made me feel. The pants were snug in all the wrong places. The outfit looked effortlessly beautiful on the girl wearing it on Instagram. Why couldn’t I feel great in just one of all the outfits I tried on? The dressing room was getting hot. My peeling, sunburned skin turned blotchy - irritated by all of the different fabrics rubbing up against it. The lighting was awful, casting shadows that made me question whether I really should have celebrated how good I felt in my body earlier that morning. I felt like a hot mess - a literal one.
I paused and took in my reflection. My imperfections were screaming so loud I could barely hear the music playing in the room. And my internal language shifted immediately. I started ripping apart each imperfection, commenting on how my body wasn’t good enough, rather than recognizing that the style may not have been right for my body or that the sizing of that brand was different than the ones I usually wear. “I must have gained weight in the past couple of weeks. Why do I even work out?!” I started spiraling. And then I let the lies I spiraled into be my truth. I welcomed them like an old friend and went home feeling defeated.
Anyone else had a day like this before?!
In the midst of transition, when I am weak, the enemy loves to knock me off my feet and the surest path there is the one that was cleared and beaten in my high school years. The one littered with lies that I failed to fight with truth and, rather, claimed as truth over and over again until it became a habit. He puts lenses in front of my eyes through which I see my imperfections as the core of my identity and whispers those all too familiar lies that send me into a downward spiral of negative self-talk. It’s like there's been this constant, low hum that has accompanied me throughout my days and weeks and tells me my imperfections make me “less than”.
I hate it, yet I welcome it.
It’s not like this all the time, I’ve learned how to fight through to victory. But it is still an easy path to get back on - especially when I'm weak. It's easy, it's known and I barely even realize when I’ve made the switch and started down that path. So, the fight is a daily one. I can recognize the lies now, and can usually tell when they are going to start flowing (any and every time the enemy wants to disrupt what God is doing in or through me). Sometimes I claim victory and other times I feel defeated - like that day in the dressing room.
Knowing that I am in a season of transition right now, I’m aware this is where the enemy will try and go after me. So, I've been praying that God would intervene, remove that negative hum and replace it with new words, new language - never changing, soul-penetrating truth.
And he did.
This month I've been re-reading a book that had significant impact on reshaping how I viewed God in college - “Delighting In The Trinity” by Michael Reeves. In the book Reeves says: "This is what went wrong in Eden, the garden of God: those who were made to enjoy the beauty of the Lord turned away to enjoy their own. Love's longings and the desires of their hearts shifted from the Lord to themselves. And thus, instead of running to Him, they would now hide from Him."
It hit the nail on the head - one of the things I hate most about insecurity and negative self-talk is that's it's all about me. I get so wrapped up in trying to pick apart my imperfections and figure out how to fix them that my gaze shifts from God to me; from loving others and being a part of God’s work in their life, to me and perfecting self. Martin Luther called this "the person curved in on himself.” It is someone whose love is no longer outgoing love like the Father's, whose gaze is no longer directed towards God, but inward. Our love is self-obsessed and misdirected.
So, as I read that excerpt, something clicked for me: Maybe, I can shift my language and celebrate my imperfections, because they remind me that on my own, I am not enough. I never will be. I am beautiful, loved and worthy because of Whose I am first - never because I have the perfect body, the most flattering outfit, or a charming personality. So, my imperfections are a loving reminder to turn my gaze away from me back to God.
For so long I have striven to perfect my imperfections because I can't stand looking in the mirror and feeling like I'm not enough. Really, though, that striving has felt futile and it makes me feel a little crazy inside because I zone in and obsess over things I can't change. I can’t make the imperfect perfect. I can’t make anything perfect. So, if my imperfections are actually a gift that reminds me to look for perfection in the Perfect One; to lovingly shift my heart away from myself back to the Lord, there is hope that I will actually be fulfilled and my soul will find rest.
I'm not saying that loving ourselves is wrong. In general, that's a healthy thing - just not when it’s given first place. Not when we love ourselves, or are wrapped up in ourselves, more than we are in God. That motivation is exactly what led Adam and Eve to disobey God - loving something else more than God. So, it's a priorities thing. All the work I've done to alter behavior doesn't change my misdirected love. Trust me, I’ve tried a lot of behavior shifting, like looking in the mirror and naming the things I love about my body when I’d rather name the things I wish were different.
Really, what's actually needed is for my heart to be turned back from what I wrongly love to the One whom I was created to be loved by and to love.
If I’m being honest, I’m still trying to figure out what this means for me, practically, every time I look in the mirror. Because I still look at my reflection and can immediately start comparing myself to all of the photos I just scrolled through on Instagram and think about the things I would love to fix that might make me feel just a little bit more confident. But I can also look at my reflection, see my imperfections and recognize them as just that. And then shift my gaze back to the Perfect One and believe that I am enough because I was created by him with those imperfections as a catalyst for my love for Him. It presents an opportunity to create a new path that I can go down in seasons of transition and moments of feeling weak.
Something about what clicked for me this week takes that to a deeper level and I think it's still sinking in. So, I am going to continue asking God to make the truth He spoke to me very real and practical next time I look in the mirror, go for a run, decide what I’m going to eat, scroll through Instagram or see a picture of myself. I am going to focus on using my imperfections as fuel for loving others in theirs. And most importantly, I am going to let them be a reminder not just of how imperfect I am, but how perfect my Father is...and fuel my love for him.
To Living Dented!
I would love to hear from you! If any of this resonated with you, or you know someone it might resonated, please share it, comment or shoot me an email.