How my Savior turned a hurtful comment into beautiful truth
An offensive remark can become a window or a door. Like a window, it can let in light and understanding. Like a door, it can become a locked barrier to hide behind in darkness and in fear.
We were the "new" family at church, when another family invited us over. Flipping through a photo album after dinner, I saw of picture of a woman who looked a lot like our host -- but not exactly. "Oh! Is this your sister?" I asked. She told me the photo was actually of her, but before her surgery. Then, she told me I had the same problem.
"I used to have a big bump on my nose just like you. I wasn't pretty; you're going to want to get that fixed!”
Too shocked to respond, I tried to act friendly and normal the rest of the night, but I felt deeply pierced. Our host hadn't intended to be mean; she thought she was being helpful.
In the months that followed, I couldn't help comparing myself to the women in our new area, Maybe I didn't fit in? I summed up what was said in a simple tag-line that played on repeat in my mind; You are not pretty. You're going to want to get that fixed. Months later, I thought of a comeback, but I didn't use it because it wasn't very good.
"If I were in an accident and my nose was DEMOLISHED, and the plastic surgeon gave me a little catalogue to choose from, I would ask for the same nose. I would want to be me!" ...Awkward.
I waffled between wanting to be me and thinking I didn't fit in. Three questions dominated my thoughts.
What is beauty?
Do I have it?
What would God say to me if I could ask Him that?
I figured He probably didn't care.
But that wasn't true.
Later in a sacred place of worship, I saw an image of my Savior that I'd seen many times. But this time, it was as if my Savior was standing in front of me embodying the answer to my question.
"This is true, unchanging beauty!"
He was my perfect example, even in this. His glorified, resurrected, and perfected body was beautiful. It was different than the counterfeit versions that I knew.
That day, I left that sacred place with my former definition of beauty OBLITERATED.
My Savior is beautiful to me. When I see images of Him, I can't apply a worldly standard. It doesn't make sense to think if he's "attractive." He's Jesus. He's above all that. Maybe we are too? When we speak His words and feel His love, we are beautiful. Then, our countenance reflects His.
Looking at beauty standards throughout history and around the world is an eye opening experience. The Greeks sported uni-brows made from goat hair, Cleopatra bathed in donkey milk (to improve her complexion), and Renaissance women shaved their eyebrows and plucked their hairlines to make them recede. When exploring "What is beauty? Do I have it" with teen girls, 80's hair and bullet bras from the 50's are pretty funny, but most impactful to me is France.
"Jolie Laide!" the French say. Loosely translated it means, "Unconventional beauty." Perfection is boring.
So, my distinct and quirky nose would make me beautiful in France.
When I ask the teens exploring this with me if I should move to France, they say "Of course not! That would be extreme."
Do we ever chase after extreme beauty standards that fail to bring us peace?
I've since learned that the Hebrew word "מֻשְׁלַם" - meaning "perfect" (pronounced moosh-LAHM), has at it's root another word. That word is "ש.ל.מ" which means "peace" or "completeness." Most of the time, when it comes to beauty I feel peace. When I do yearn for something more, I try to remember that what I'm REALLY wanting is the future gift my Savior has prepared for me. We will all be made complete someday, and that beauty will transcend all that we now know.
As I age, the answers that brought peace over 12 years ago still bring peace today. My Savior turned a hurtful comment into beautiful truth, and I'm so grateful for Him!
*Information about Hebrew words and their meaning taken from ulpan.com