Made Beautiful

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  

Really.

Where does your wandering gaze land?

What emotions rise in your heart?

What thoughts run through your mind?

And where have they come from?

More than likely, they stem from the world you’re immersed in. The people you mix with—face to face and online. The celebrities you follow. The Instagram feeds you scroll through. The Netflix series you binge-watch. All the forms of media that spark comparison and whisper that you’re not enough. Too many times, you’re barely awake before discouragement kicks in. Sometimes even despair.

Please let me tell you a little story from an autumn morning a few weeks back. It might bring some fresh perspective.

There was a wintry chill in the air that day, so I pulled the covers higher on my waist and draped my dressing gown around my shoulders. My eyes, still blurry from sleep, narrowed to slits as I tried to make out the numbers on the clock in our bedroom. It was five past six—early for me. Still, I knew the next precious moments would be worth the sacrificed sleep.   

I needed to connect with my Maker before launching into the day. 

Yawning, I reached for my bible and journal in the bedside drawer, trying to sift through the fog in my mind and recall what I’d been reading the day before. It was something so intriguing, I’d wanted to study it further. I opened my bible, those strange words from the previous morning drifting through my mind like an echo. Grasping the wafer-thin pages in wads, I flipped towards the back till I reached Romans 8, then skimmed down to the verse I was after—number thirty. There, once again, I found the phrase that had me baffled.“. . . those he justified, he also glorified.”

My eyebrows rose as I read this. What on earth did that mean—God glorified us? Weren’t we supposed to glorify Him? There had to be more to this than I could understand.

I opened the lexicon on biblehub– an online tool I’d just discovered that unveils the meaning of words in their original language. Surely in this case ‘glorified’ meant something different to the way we usually understood it. Carefully, I pored over the detailed information the website provided about this confusing statement, taking note of key points and filling pages of my journal with my hurried scrawl. Before long, I was so engrossed, all sense of time and cold faded.  

Once I’d finished reading, I slumped back on my pillow, awe-struck.

Here’s what I learned. Those words about us being glorified by God? Their meaning in the original language was exactly the same as usual. God, our creator, glorifies us. And He does it willingly. When we put our faith in Jesus and surrender our lives to God, He doesn’t only forgive us and set us free from our past.

He honours us with dignity and worth.
He exalts us to a rank and condition far beyond what we deserve. That was certainly my story.
He imparts His own spectacular glory to us.
He declares us excellent and glorious,
adorns us with lustre (that’s shininess, in case you wondered)
and clothes us with splendour.

Yes, God glorifies us. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?  

I understood this a little. God had lifted me from the depths and given me a whole new life, with dignity and purpose.

But ‘glory’? That was so hard to fathom.

And what about that word, ‘splendour’—so unique and rich in imagery? In the Cambridge dictionary it’s described as ‘great beauty that attracts admiration and attention’. Again, the original language conveys the same meaning. The Hebrew word for splendour relates to ‘beautify’ and ‘glorify’. When God clothes us with splendour, He beautifies us. In that beauty, He glorifies us. That means, even on our frumpiest, very worst hair days, by God’s grace we are clothed with great beauty that attracts admiration and attention.  Imagine that!

When we focus solely on the image in our mirror, we are robbed. The pictures we’re swamped with every day narrow our view, convincing us our outward appearance is the only measure of our value. But God made us so much more. And this beauty He gives isn’t something we can attain through our own striving efforts.

It’s transcendent.

It begins in our spirit—where God comes to dwell by His Spirit. As He fills us with His beautiful presence, His splendour wells up and flows out of us . . . so clearly that others see it and marvel.

“Those who look to Him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:5

I stilled my pen and closed my eyes that morning, trying to grasp these ideas in their fullness.  A fresh sense of joy welled inside me as my perception of myself grew a little closer to God’s view. Every day, no matter how I look or feel, whether I’m upbeat or melancholy, conquering or struggling, I can walk with dignity, knowing God Himself has clothed me with His splendour. It can be the same for you too—if you put your hope in Him. Regardless of how anyone else may view us, the Creator and ultimate authority says we are His beloved, His treasured possession , wholly accepted.

Who would dare argue with Him?

It’s easy to wonder why we’ve been given such stand-out glory, such splendour. Is it intended to set us strutting, eager for everyone to notice how brightly we’re shining? In reality it’s not only about us.

Look at these words.  

“Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendour.”       (Isaiah 60:21)

“Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendour.”  (Isaiah 55:5)

Even while He lavishes so much love and favour on us, God is also looking beyond us to those who don’t yet know Him. He’s pursuing others just as He pursued us, ready to lift them, too, out of their tangle of sin and shame and failure—and He wants our hearts to beat as strongly for them as His does.

We are like a myriad of precious, sparkling jewels—each unique in colour and cut, all reflecting the goodness of God to those around us. The attention and admiration sparked by our splendour is intended to point people to its source—the light—our gracious God.

Next time you stand in front of the mirror, pause and look beyond the outward. God loves you so much He offered His very best to rescue you. He wants to fill you with His goodness and lead you in His eternal purpose. Let that understanding propel you into your day with joy, your eyes looking right to the hearts of people around you, not merely their appearance. As you walk in step with God’s heartbeat, letting His glory shine through you, others will also be stirred to seek Him—the one who leads us into life in all its beautiful fullness.  

 

“She is clothed in strength and dignity;

She can laugh at the days to come.”

Proverbs 31:25

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Skinny Girl

I peered through my bedroom window. Morning sunlight shone through the gum trees in golden shafts.  Sheets billowed in the breeze as Mum wrestled them into position on the line. A tall mound of wet washing sat in the basket in front of her.

She’d be out there for a while.

Here was my opportunity.

Heart pounding and muscles tense, I crept down the hall, slowing my steps outside my parents’ bedroom. The bathroom scales were in there – waiting for me.

Tiptoeing into the room, I dragged them out and stepped on to the platform, my breath held tight.

What would they tell me this time?

Every day it was the same. Measure, eat, count calories, exercise, re-measure. This routine had ruled my life for months now.

I’d never meant for it to be this way. My strict diet and exercise plan was supposed to be a fleeting thing – a quick snatch at the slender days of my teens…when men said I was beautiful. It was supposed to transform me from the girl I loathed – unwanted and lonely – to someone attractive. Someone worthy of love.

Months before, my world had changed suddenly. The departure of a loved one had set me reeling, flailing about like a tiny boat tossed in stormy seas. This rigid plan provided an anchor point – a solid structure I could cling to. It was supposed to rescue me – to sculpt my outside and somehow fill up the holes at my core. Instead it became my obsession – my first thought in the morning, my last whisper at night and every heartbeat in between.

Little by little, I shrivelled under its demands. The faith and passion of earlier years ran dry as losing weight became my sole focus. All that mattered now was the numbers – the calories I ate, the distance I walked, the weight on the scales.

joggers-weights

scales-44-9

When the numbers were good, relief came – though only for a little while. Happiness was a fleeting visitor. Whatever fragment I shaved off my frame, it was never enough. There was always further to go – more weight to lose, more flaws to fix.

I thought attaining my ideal size would give me confidence. But when I reached that point, my deepest fears were realised. I still felt the same – empty and unlovable.

My appearance wasn’t the problem.

I was.

I was the flawed one, ugly inside, smeared with failure and shame. No diet, however strict, could erase the grime of my past.

Still, I tried. Maybe if I pushed further, tried harder, then I’d feel better.

my-face-21st

My body began to protest but I ignored its cries. Fluttering heart, skin turning yellow, strength declining – what were they but whining complaints from one already rejected?

What would it matter – really – if my tormented life came to an end?

Friends and acquaintances frowned and tut-tutted, sending me scurrying like a cornered mouse. They didn’t understand – had no idea what I felt. Fearful and angry, I retreated into my own narrow world – a tunnel with room only for me.

The way ahead was dim and my eyes strained to see. Where was the light?

Didn’t tunnels always have light at the end?

Reality crashed down on me like a heavy weight. There was no light, no way out. I’d built this world around myself and now I was trapped inside it.

————————————————————————–

Life became a sombre march, one foot plodding in front of the other. Every day was the same routine, a desperate cycle of striving that only took me deeper, lower.

Through the blackness, a clear voice beckoned. You need to give this up.

My Father God – the one I’d hidden from – was speaking to me.

His words were soft, yet urgent. Give it up. Turn around. Let go.

He was right, I knew. This tunnel led to death, as sure as the darkness.

But He was asking the impossible. I couldn’t let go. Not ever.

If I did, I’d drown.

————————————————————————–

Friends were watching, talking, praying. Urged on from above, one group approached me. “You can’t stay in there. It’s dark. And dangerous.”

Angered by their comments and terrified of judgement, I withdrew further.

They followed me.

“We want to help you. Please. This isn’t who you are. Take our hand. We’ll walk with you out of this – for as long as it takes.”

Cracks rippled across my determined facade and a tiny light began to glimmer, drawing me towards it. These women stretched their arms wide, embracing me just as I was. Slowly, gently they helped me pull down the walls I’d built around myself. Professional help was arranged and paid for. When fear tried to overwhelm, they offered peace and held me steady. All the while they enveloped me in prayer.

Their kindness gave me courage to face my inner turmoil.

————————————————————————–

Slowly, gently, I was led through the process of healing. The lies which had entangled my heart were removed, strand by strand, and replaced with life-giving truth.

My worth wasn’t in my size.

Nor was it in the attention of males.

I had worth simply because I’d been created. I didn’t need to fit an image or achieve great things to be loved. I already was loved, cherished by the One who’d formed me as a unique reflection of Himself. He was the source of my value.

Pure, heavenly light shone on my greatest wounds and deepest shame – exposing infection and offering forgiveness. God’s abundant love poured over me like a waterfall, washing me clean, filling up all my empty places. This love was pure and perfect, strong enough to set me free from my past and launch me into a future full of promise.

Where despair had dwelt expectancy began to bloom. I turned my back on the tunnel’s ruins as one year came to a close and a fresh new season unfurled. The path stretching out before me was bathed in warm sunlight.

I launched out, my hand firmly grasped by my Father.

With Him beside me, I knew everything would be alright.

And it was.

 

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Psalm 40:2

“(Jesus said,) ‘Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:32

 

A note to my readers:

Do you relate to my story? If you’re struggling as I did, please consider talking about it with a person you trust. Letting someone in was my first step towards recovery – so terrifying but so worth it.

You may find professional help is needed. Psychologists and counsellors have the experience to help you deal with the issues behind your struggle. Getting help is not a sign of failure. It’s a proactive step towards freedom and a better life.

Can I also encourage you to get to know God, your Maker? He is the One who knows you better than anyone. There’s not a moment of your life when He hasn’t loved you. All His plans for you, even through the hardest of times, are good. Below are a few verses you may like to read.

Matthew 11:28

Psalm 139:13-14a

Zephaniah 3:17

Jeremiah 29:11,13-14a

Isaiah 1:18

John 8:36

The process of healing can be both painful and exciting. Beyond it is a life too good to miss.