Welcome back 🙂 I’m glad we’re both sticking with this! I hope you’re finding something to energize your spirit here.
This week I want to dig into some truth about our image. Image is a very important thing to us humans. God created us with eyes that we use to gather mountains of data about the world around us. The way we see things with our eyes has a big impact on how we perceive them with our minds. But it’s not a one-way street. Our mind can cause our eyes to see the wrong thing. Think of all those optical illusions and “magic eye” pictures that so fascinated you as a child (or even, like me, as an adult). You may know that the circles are not spinning, but something between your eyes and your brain says it most certainly is. Or there are those with eye diseases that either have blank spots in their vision, or see extra things (lines, starbursts, etc.) added to the image before them. We even have sayings based on image: “Seeing is Believing” or “Image is Everything”. We have image consultants, we have whole industries based on making things and people look their best. Or, in some cases, better than their best.
Floating around the internet currently is a video series put out by health and beauty product manufacturer Dove. It features an interesting experiment in which a forensic sketch artists draws two portraits of several women. One he draws based solely on the woman’s description of herself, and the other he bases on a description given by an acquaintance. He never sees the woman until all the sketches are finished. In every case, the picture based on the woman’s own description is much harsher and less attractive (and also less accurate). The point Dove is trying to make is that we all are more beautiful than we think, and that people we meet judge us (at least physically) less harshly than we judge ourselves. I think they’re right, and I think that it is an important fact to remember, especially in such a beauty-crazed society as ours.
But our problem with image goes far beyond age spots, crows’ feet, or dark circles under our eyes. And it’s not just limited to women. Yes, we ladies often worry about our physical image before we even think about the other aspects. But men are not immune to creating false images of themselves as well, although their images are more often based on quantitative factors such as social acceptance, career success, wealth accumulation, and perceived respect. Now, to be sure, some people go off the other end of the continuum and create a false self-image that paints them as much more beautiful, successful, and popular than they are. But by far, the majority of us struggle with seeing ourselves as less thans. I’m less beautiful than _________ because _______. I’m not as successful as ____________ because I don’t _____________. I’m less popular than ___________ because ____________. I get less respect in the office than _________ because __________. The comparisons go on and on until we see ourselves as something small and miserable. The first image that pops into my mind is from the Disney classic Little Mermaid. Being a child of the 80’s, I probably watched this movie 100 times. The wicked sea-witch sings a song about “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, those who had asked for her help, and were unable to repay. They looked like this: instead of the beautiful, graceful, majestic mer-people that they had been. Sad as it is, we often turn ourselves into “Poor Unfortunate Souls” by lying over and over to ourselves and to others about who we really are.
So what about the truth? Who are we? We are God’s masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We are God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9). Any one of those alone ought to revolutionize the way we see ourselves. You are not from God’s pile of “seconds”. He didn’t pick you up in the yardsale of life (and He won’t sell you off at one, either). The Father and Creator takes great joy in you, whether you are physically beautiful in your own eyes, or the eyes of others. He rejoices over you whether you have reached the highest levels of human success, or are still struggling to get on the bottom rung of the proverbial ladder. Let me leave you with the simple, but eternally profound, truth that God gave to the prophet Samuel as he searched for the next King of Israel: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) What is inside you – your character, your integrity, your relationship with God – those are the things that really count, because they can get better with age. No one gets more beautiful as they get old. But the lasting and eternal continually improves, if it is what we are focused on.
This week, when you look in the mirror, make sure you’re presentable, but then look deeper, and ask God to show you what’s on the inside (Psalm 139:23-24), then take care of that. And when you look at others, discipline yourself to look past their outward appearance, whether stunningly beautiful or distressingly grotesque, and search out their real nature. I guarantee you, things will look a whole lot different.