As embarrassing as it is to admit it, my kids recently stole my hairbrushes. All of them- literally. Luckily, this happened on a Friday after I had brushed my hair, but by the evening they were gone. Every. Single. One.
After essentially having a conniption Saturday afternoon and looking like some wild cave creature with my hair literally sticking straight out (I’m so glad I didn’t have to go anywhere that day), my kids finally started to help me look for them. Emily had stashed two under her bed and another one appeared in a kitchen drawer next to the can opener.
Maybe it sounds strange, but having fibromyalgia has made me much more cognizant of what I look like. Feeling like I am put together makes me feel like I am an inch closer to normal. It’s especially true on my bad days when the pain is exhausting. At least not being obviously sick somehow makes the pain is easier to push out of my mind.
Compensating like this, though, isn’t always very healthy. There was no hiding when my hairbrushes were MIA. There’s no hiding from God even when my hairbrushes aren’t missing either, though.
Letting beauty sustain me instead of God is always going to be a problem. It’s a salve that I try to use to deal with my own internal ugliness, let alone sickness. The craving to be beautiful is because I know, at my core, that I’m innately not. While there is a movement in the greater church to affirm ourselves and tell us that we are beautiful and enough, we aren’t, at least not on our own.
Go read Romans. All of it.
I’m not kidding.
A chapter a day is a good place to start. I spent nearly a year going through it once and it’s the reason that I decided to start studying Greek. I keep going back to it, especially when I’m struggling, sick, or just tired. The book is about the beauty of what Jesus’s death did for us and how grace needs to impact the believer. We don’t deserve what He has given us, but He gave it all the same and made us whole.
We are enough in Christ. We are beautiful in Christ. We are forgiven in Christ. Without the “in Christ,” we are left to struggle.
I can put on all the makeup on that I want, but it’s not going to really make things better. It’s why we so often feel like we need to pull all the ugliness out of ourselves and stuff something else in. It’s because we actually need to do so.
We’re profoundly drawn to beauty. One of the things I miss most from when I lived in California (other than my friends and family, of course!) is watching the sun set over the Pacific. There were times I was at the beach with my friends and we all sat in wonder as the sun dipped behind the waves. We loved being out in such grace. One of my other favorite places was the Getty museum; there were Monets and Van Goghs and I couldn’t help but feel like they were trying to capture the same glory with their oils that I had been chasing too. Success sometimes has its own beautiful elegance and certainly, the American Dream has the same allure in its white picket fences. These have the same aspects, just a little more man-made, but draw us like a moth to flame nonetheless.
It’s understandable that we chase beauty ourselves most when we are feeling unsettled. Beauty has it’s own inherent peace and contended certainty.
We can start chasing all of these things in hopes of feeling better or more worthwhile instead of finding our value where we ought. No one is immune. Worship is a response to beauty and in the absence of worshipping God, it isn’t that we will worship nothing. We will worship anything.
I’ve come to the place where I have realized that it is okay to not be enough. God is. Our feelings of chaos and inadequacy are important as they are meant to draw us to Him. He is beautiful and letting His character inform ours is the only way we are going to become truly beautiful. The grace that He offers isn’t meant to simply make everything okay and we can continue on with living our lives our way; authentic grace will spur us on to be the people He designed us to be. It is never easy, but always worth it.
Even on the hard days, being authentic is better than hiding behind a mask of whatever we believe is the most socially acceptable appearance. I’m getting better at that, but there’s a vulnerability that comes along that it hard. We can’t control how we are perceived, but if our security is in Christ, it makes the possible rejection easier to swallow. Not easy, just easier, but the reward is deeper and more encouraging relationships with the possibility of making a real impact in others.
Now, that’s truly beautiful.
I’m still going to brush my hair, though, while not exactly just for my sake. I think all my friends, clients, and coworkers would appreciate me not looking like a crazy person. Unless, of course, my kids steal my hairbrushes again.