I’m not sure if you journal much, but I’m the type of person that can express and articulate what I’m thinking and feeling through writing much easier than by spoken words. Sometimes, when I’m upset and my husband asks what’s wrong or what can he do to help, my initial response to both is ” I have no idea!” There are times when we girls just don’t know why we’re crying or why we’re so mad or irritated. Quite often, we can blame it on one simple word. Hormones. But, I’ve found that usually there’s more to it. We have depth. Our hearts have places in them that some of us have never tapped into. We become so busy or distracted that we don’t take the time to discover who we really are and what’s really down in there.
I’m finding that when I’m at a loss for spoken words, if I tuck away with a pen and paper, let the words flow without trying to sound all put together and intelligent, my heart will speak. Quietly, softly. What comes out often surprises me. But it makes way more sense than whatever my emotional cover was trying to scream. I came across this C.S. Lewis quote that I think sums it all up…
…I’d say that’s about right!
Sometimes I enjoy going back and reading some of those journals to remind me of the places I’ve been, both beautiful, happy AND dark, ugly. It’s good to remember. Looking back, we can see the faithfulness of God’s hand in our lives, even if at the moment it seemed as though He was a distant and uncaring father.
This morning I found myself perusing in a journal of mine from 6 years ago during my time in Nashville while in grad school. It’s crazy how different life is now, but how vital the time there was in preparing me for here. Anyway, this morning I came across an entry that really reminded me of a place that I once was and still continue to work through with the Lord. I thought maybe I should share…
You see, I was in a stressful season. The plate was full with lots of hard and heavy schoolwork, trying to not only maintain, but to grow in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend (now husband), gripped by fear of the unknown with the progression of my dad’s idiopathic (meaning doctor’s were not sure the cause at the time) illness, and missing my family and friends from home and college. I just felt worn down. And not pretty. You know that kind of “not pretty” that you feel when you’re stressed. Skin is dull, hair stays in a messy bun at the top of your head, big sweatshirt and leggings are the only thing I want to wear kind of not pretty. That was where I was. And I didn’t like it.
I’ve always wanted to take care of my body, be healthy, and in all honesty, look good. But at some point along the way, that desire to be healthy became an idol to be perfect. So, looking back, I think God knocked me off of my feet. Sometimes, He just has to dethrone those idols that we put before Him in our lives. For me, typically the dethroning involves me kicking and screaming and holding onto them as tightly as I can until the very last strand of control I thought I had is completely gone.
Reading my journal this morning reminded me of that place. I was feeling “not pretty”, and I didn’t quite know how to articulate it with spoken words. Typical. So, I wrote. I think what came out of the depths of my heart reflected the reality that “pretty” wasn’t what I truly desired. It was BEAUTY. I knew I couldn’t control the external situations, even though I often tried. Let me tell you, sometimes when things beyond our control arise and we know we can’t control the external “situations”, we still try to control our external “selves”. For me, that was by exercising harder, eating healthier, putting on more concealer, appearing like I had it all together, etc. etc. But that gets old, and it doesn’t work for long. Why? Because we have depth. We aren’t merely external beings. Those hearts of ours will eventually show.
The poem (well I’m not sure what you would call it…maybe just a word vomit of my heart because it’s not very poetic) that I wrote at the time in my life when I felt the least pretty, is such a reminder to me, even today, of what my heart (and I believe yours, too) really wants…even when our minds and the world tell us differently. May it encourage you today to not strive for momentary pleasure and satisfaction, but to truly be a woman clothed in “strength and dignity”, defining beauty in a completely new way. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find some time to sit down and write. You might be surprised by what you learn from that heart of yours.
I hope you enjoy. (FYI, my mom is an English teacher, so I do realize that I have probably completely broken every rule of poetical and grammatical correctiveness out there. Sorry Mama!)
“Skin deep isn’t Beauty at all. No, it’s so much more. It’s a heart that beats, a soul that aches and searches and seeks more. More than skin deep. Skin. It ages. It wrinkles. It droops and dries. It changes form and color. It fades well before the light of the Beautiful soul burning deep within does. We strive to preserve it. Care for it, condition and pamper, as if to mask the nature of the body. And yes, this isn’t always a bad thing. A woman wants to be beautiful (full of Beauty), to feel Beauty, to breathe Beauty, to behold Beauty. Beauty is in her. So, no, to preserve outward beauty isn’t always vanity. It’s feminine. But it’s fading, nonetheless.
Oh that we would embrace the true Beauty from within. Allow it to seep out from pore to pore. To radiate and outshine the coverage beauty that we strive to preserve. Oh that the heart would Beat and Swell and Burst at the seems with Divine Beauty that isn’t to be preserved, but to be Poured Out, Exploded, Exhausted, Exposed until there is no more. Until we behold True Beauty face to face. Throne Room Beauty. Beauty that takes the breath right out of the lungs, because it’s the very Beauty that put the breath there in the first place. Day by day, moment by moment. When we behold that kind of Beauty, we won’t need to breathe because it is Life, Breath, Oxygen to our souls. It’s everything, and we’ll behold it. Embrace it. Worship it.
Until that day, let our hearts and minds seek that Beauty. Let us run FOR it, run TO it, morning by morning. Before and above all other acts to preserve our little fading beauty. Let the everlasting Beauty burn within. Explode. Fill us up. Empty us. Stretch us. Beauty that never ages or fades but only burns brighter and brighter. May it never grow dim. Let us reflect eternal Beauty, not pretty beauty. Let Jesus be the Beauty in me.”
“Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.” – 1 Peter 3:5