I remember being in the ultrasound room as the sweet-voiced technician discovered we would be having two little girls. To be truthful, of all the different combinations possible (three to be exact), this was the one that made me the most nervous. After all, as a woman, I knew the struggles that would come along for them. The hardships of a man are real as well; yet, they were foreign to me. The sufferings of a woman hit very close to home, and so many of them are attached to our physicality.
This body. I have had a love/hate relationship with it since I can remember. There have been times where I desperately wanted to change it; spending way too many moments calculating and analyzing how I could do just that. Other seasons, I was in awe of it as it crossed a half marathon finish line or birthed and nourished two precious babies. Since God began the freeing process of molding me to be more like Him, it has been somewhat of a battle to distinguish what the world says my body is good for versus what God says my body is good for; so, as I processed the thought of having two little girls, my mind began to race, thinking of the vast responsibility we were going to have in teaching them truths about their bodies versus lies. And while the responsibility has taken a few twists, the matter is equally as great: how do you explain to two little girls who have special needs that they are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God? How do you teach them that, despite what the world says about mutations or imperfections or atypical or abnormal, that they are absolutely perfect in His eyes? I believe that I answered this question best at a recent question and answer session in which someone asked me something similar. I laughed to myself later, knowing that they might have been expecting something a little more eloquent, but here was how I responded: sloppily yet in grace. Truthfully, this has been my response to many questions that have come along. The terrifying thing as a parent is that we are still human whenever we have our children. I think we somehow think, quite wrongly, that we will gain some sort of super parent power when our children get here. Our sin is just as real; yet our God’s strength and goodness are, too. That is the key. Those of us who have sunk into this truth have found great relief and comfort in the fact that we will never reach a point where we have it all together; yet He has had it all together all along.
God’s word is such manna to our souls. For someone who dislikes mysteries and uncertainty, God’s word is what I count on for answers and the realest reality. As I looked at what God’s word tells us about our bodies, one thing was very clear: God speaks about this word, the body, in three different ways. First and foremost, He talks about the body of Christ. This perfect God-man whose temporary body was wrecked in order to permanently free our souls. Secondly, He mentioned the Body of Christ in relation to the church. By the church, I don’t mean First Baptist or Second Presbyterian. No. The church is not a building; rather the church is all of God’s children connected as one. The Body of Christ, now that He has ascended into heaven and entered into the hearts of those of us who call ourselves Christ followers in the form of His Spirit, this body is us. We are truly His hands, His feet, His heart to a dying world. We may not always act like it; we may grief His Spirit in order to please our flesh, but He has made it clear that we are His body on this earth. The third way that He mentions the body is definition we all tend to think of first: this flesh. Our individual, quickly fading, temporary, physical bodies. Christ follower or not, we can all agree on one thing: these bodies are not going to last. I like to think of those of us who are not differently abled as temporarily able-bodied. And, it doesn’t take long to see that this body and it’s abilities can change or be taken away at the blink of an eye.
People always tell us how beautiful our girls are, and as their momma, I could not agree more. Most of the time, they are discussing their physical appearance. Something that God is revealing to me in this journey, maybe more than ever, is the importance of finding the beauty within rather than focusing on the beauty external.
There is nothing wrong with recognizing the beauty of creation. Psalm 19:1 says,
“the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork”. Yes. Creation absolutely speaks of the glory of God; yet may we not lose sight of the fact that the Creator is the One to be praised, not the creation itself. Truthfully, looking to the creation instead of the Creator puts pressure on the thing created that it was never intended to have. Because everything and everyone is slowing fading, our external beauty is passing as well. But God. God has gifted those of us who believe with His Spirit, and we can rest assured that this beauty can never fade. So as women, while this may sound elementary, we have got to encourage and exhort the eternal beauty in one another rather than looking at the fleeting appearance. We have to choose, for ourselves and our children, to not take too much stock in something that could be here today, gone tomorrow. We must model this balance of appreciating the skin God gave us while knowing that it’s not going to last. Our children do what we model, not what we say. Sometimes, it is the things that we don’t verbalize that speak out the strongest.
So, when it comes to our girls and other children in a similar place, I have made it my purpose to speak these truths to them from now until one of us is called home: you are beautiful. You are prized. You matter. You are perfect exactly the way you are. You were knit in my womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. God makes no mistakes. No matter how many people you come across that think you should “get stronger” or “progress” or “be different”, as your mom, I recognize these as nothing but lies. God accepts you exactly as you are and you are, my precious ones, made in His image. You are not Plan B and we are not going to spend your days pushing you to be anything but what God has called you to be. You-exactly the way you are-are a crucial member of the body of Christ. You are irreplaceable. We are not going to be any more proud or less proud of you tomorrow than we are today. Your value is based on whose You are rather than who you are or what you do or do not do.
I love this quote from Michael Beates. In His book Disability and the Gospel, he says this,
“The Patriarchs, far from being ‘heroes of faith,’ are more often stumbling, weak, and broken people whom God uses in their weakness. When God met Jacob and left him wounded, it was a physical wound that was meant to remind him of his spiritual brokenness. He could no longer feign moral strength as he limped through life with this new physical disability….God intentionally brings woundedness to those he loves. And in fact, those God uses the most he breaks, in some manner, for his sovereign purposes…We are all ‘jars of clay’ (2 Cor 3-4). Some of us have cracks, chips, or imperfections that have in some cases been divinely formed and in others cases, divinely allowed through the processes of trimming, glazing, and firing. We are all the work of God’s hands.”
Friends, this is not only true for those who are differently-abled. This is true for each of us. I believe that those with various handicaps can direct each of us to this deeper truth about ourselves: our bodies are fading, yet God is making our spirits stronger and stronger. This world is not our home, and these bodies are not our final destination. And, I believe someone reading this now truly needs to grasp this truth: there is no pressure for you to keep this perishing body looking a certain way. The world may tell you otherwise, but let’s go back to the same truths that I pray over my girls:
Dear reader: you are beautiful. You are prized. You matter. You are perfect exactly the way you are. You were knit in your mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. God makes no mistakes. No matter how many people you come across that think you should “get stronger” or “progress” or “be different”, God recognizes these as nothing but lies. God accepts you exactly as you are and you are, my precious one, made in His image. You are not Plan B and you are not called to spend your days being pushed to be anything but what God has called you to be. You-exactly the way you are-are a crucial member of the body of Christ. You are irreplaceable. God is not going to be any more proud or less proud of you tomorrow than He is today. Your value is based on whose You are rather than who you are or what you do or do not do.
Friends, no matter where you are in this body struggle, I want you to hold fast to the truth of who God says you are. I want to encourage us to filter out the external in order to look at the souls of those around us. May we not make the focus something that is changing and fading; may we, instead, fix our eyes on Him and ask Him to give us the ability to see deeper.
“Do not let your adorning be external…but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”- 1 Peter 3:3b,4
May we find freedom in knowing that our beauty goes much deeper than what the culture around us preaches. May we speak truth to ourselves, to our friends, to strangers, to loved ones, to our children. May we appreciate the beauty around us, knowing that it is a pale comparison of the beauty that awaits. You are perfect just the way you are, not because of you, but because of Him. Let’s celebrate God’s creativity in the way He molded each of us today!