As I washed my hands for the fifteenth time this morning I glanced up into the mirror and sighed. I looked tired, older than I should, and my skin has pores the size of the state I live in. To say I’m not happy with my appearance is an understatement. But I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll always have saggy skin, under eye circles, and a paunch.
After 4 boys that’s to be expected, right?
I’ve always been sensitive to my appearance, always bought in to social media’s idea of what I should look like. I’m discouraged by the complete bombardment of how I should change myself. From the products I can buy — let’s just say, it DOESN’T work — to the commercials on my social media feed, it seems the whole world is telling me I shouldn’t like how I look, and I should change.
Just seeing Caitlyn Jenner touted as the epitome of women by being given Glamour’s “Woman of the Year” award gave me less hope to be beautiful in everyone else’s eyes. The message is clearly “if you aren’t happy with your appearance, you can always change it!” Go to a doctor and make yourself look and feel however you want. Don’t be happy with what you have — in fact, you’ll get awards and praise for changing everything about yourself. You’ll be called brave, beautiful, and the world will love you for changing!
I know in my heart I should be happy with how I look. I hear my husband call me gorgeous, the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. I read about how I should embrace my mommy scars and love the huge stretch marks that look like I’ve been mauled by a lion with huge claws. The fat that covers what used to be my abs made my babies, and so I should feel like a warrior.
But all I feel is sadness toward what once was.
I love my children. I love caring for them, but I do not like what I look like after caring for them day and night. I’ve tried to tell myself I’m beautiful. I’ve worked out for years, changed my wardrobe, changed my hair, put on tons of makeup, and bought some awesome shoes. All those things don’t hit the main problem, though — that I think I’ve lost that sparkle I had before kids. All the outside sources and people will not help if I can’t see it myself.
So I trudged through in my yoga pants and hair in a bun, until I went to change my baby and started kissing him. The giggles he produced made me do it more, tickling him with my freckled face. I worked him up to a frenzy of chortles, and he reached up to cup my face. In that instant I looked in the mirror on the dresser, and he did, too. His eyes were filled with an absolute love — an absolute, overflowing, all consuming love for ME.
It wasn’t that he overlooked my tired eyes (which he was the reason for) or that he dismissed the sallow complexion. He loved those things about me because that made me, me. If I changed those things I wouldn’t be his mother. If I did a nip/tuck I would be changing his basic understanding of his mom.
So, I took a picture of how I looked right then, to remind me that this is how he sees me. This is how all my sons see me, and they love me for it — NOT in spite of it. I’m beautiful to them without changing anything about me, not even my shirt with spit-up on it. On days when I’m ankle deep in pee I need this reminder. I don’t need to go under a knife to find love and acceptance. I just look into those young eyes, and I’m reassured that I’m perfect.
Not perfect by my own definition, of course. But in this vocation God has given me, I am dazzling. I AM fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). My Lord God made me in his image. He sees my scars inside and out and loves every inch of my sinful self. How do I know this? He died for me, even when I’m at my ugliest. I’m made clean, perfect, and beautiful — not by any change I undergo or any product I buy or even by any change of my own attitude — but I am made beautiful in Christ, in His body and blood. I am beautiful to Him, because He has claimed me as His.
Now to remind myself of that when the whining from the pre-teen comes.
Allison is a graduate of Concordia University Chicago before becoming the wife to Reverend Chris Hull in Texas and mother to four rowdy and rambunctious boys.