I haven’t always loved what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I’ve liked my reflection, I guess. I definitely thought portions of my appearance were pretty. You know, the features people pointed out. My golden hazel eyes and long eye lashes. My thick, espresso-brown hair. But I still seemed to make a hobby of focusing on my long list of flaws. I’d make comments and subtle digs against myself. I’d hem and haw and humph over my appearance. I’d pinch my various parts and wish the excess away. I’d almost always turn away from the mirror with a sigh, disappointed, rather than grateful and confident.
And when out with friends, I’d give compliments with longing in my voice. Rather than making the compliment a blessing for my friends, I’d turn it into a curse… toward me. The grass is always greener. My life could always be better. If only I had her skin, her teeth, her arms, her abs, her thighs. If only I looked like her or her or her…then I would be beautiful.
Now that I have little eyes watching me, my son, my twin baby girls, I think about how they will grow to define beauty. My son and I talk a lot about what words mean. He’s making connections all the time. His little toddler mind is always working. When he asks what a word means, I’ll explain and he’ll often reply, “Just like…” connecting this new word, this new meaning, to other parts of his experience. I know my girls will grow to do the same. I know they will dissect their reflection looking for a correlation, a connection to beauty defined elsewhere in their life experience, to beauty as defined by me and their father in these early days.
So now I notice it with new ears. My use of the word and its synonyms. Beautiful. Pretty, stunning, lovely, handsome, gorgeous, and all the rest. How do I use these words? How are they used on TV? In magazines and movies? How do I want beauty to be defined in our lives? In my children’s hearts?
I’ve begun a makeover of sorts, of my vocabulary. I want my kids to really have a Biblical view of beauty coming from one’s character. I want to be intentional about how I live out this concept, how I use these words, teach and live their definition. “Beautiful” should be more than compliment used on an extraordinary day, when I put on a special dress or do my hair and make-up.
I want to consciously point out the beauty of spirit, character, heart in those around me. I want to instruct my children to enjoy their reflection because they can look past the freckles or pimples or “freshmen 15” or baby weight or wrinkles they will each have in turn. I want them to be pleased with the beauty that emanates from their soul. I want them to know in their bones the sentiment of 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:3-4, that we shouldn’t define beauty as external adornment, but from “good deeds” and the “inner self.”
I also want them to find beauty in their bodies, in their physical strength and health. I want them to recognize God has intended that body to be a vessel used for His glory. Beautyredefined.com puts it this way: “Want to feel good about your body? Don’t just beautify it. Use it! Your body is an instrument to be used, not an ornament to be admired.” His instrument. For His use. Strong and beautiful.
I want them to recognize their uniqueness and call it beautiful. So much of our world pigeonholes beauty as a certain shape or size or color or style or fashion. I want the word “beautiful” to be used as synonym for unique and different and special. Because we serve a wildly creative God who has formed each one of us individually then broke the mold immediately after. I want them to see their body as beautiful because of who created it, the great gift it is, that He saw fit to make it exactly just so, different from the next one and the next one and the next one. He gave each of us beautiful, unique features, both the culturally accepted and not so accepted ones. My hazel eyes, thick brown hair, as well as my wide hips and thick thighs. These parts tell a story of who I am. They aren’t obstacles to overcome. They are witnesses of my individuality, of my genetic history, of the love stories that came before me to join with God in the miracle of creating me.
As I thoughtfully, intentionally use these adjectives, I hope I teach my children to see this world as God sees it, beyond the external, beyond the present day.
Look at your reflection, child. What do you see?
-A beautiful body, created by Beauty Itself. A body beautiful because of its strength, its potential, its service of the soul that inhabits it.
-A body beautiful because of its uniqueness, one-of-a-kind intentional design.
- Daddy’s eyes, Mama’s smile, Grandpa’s forehead, Grandma’s nose. A body beautiful because of the story it tells, the history it conveys and brings with it of the souls from which it came.
-A beautiful soul, the image bearer of Beauty Itself, shining through, reflecting His Light, His Beauty in the reflection you see.
Look at your world, child. What do you see? Beauty created by Beauty itself. You see beauty in strength, in individuality, in differences, in history, in characters and personality. In creativity and ingenuity, in friendship and love, in service and vulnerability. You see beauty all around, in all of it, in all He has created and inspired and given.
I want to teach my kids about beauty. I want to live it out. I want to challenge myself to stop using the term so narrowly, but to show it and share it broadly. I’m stepping out of the shadows, no longer repeating and reliving my physical “flaws” and the “flaws” that surround me. Instead, I choose to hold captive my tongue, no longer conforming to the pattern of this world, and its definition and use of the word “beautiful”, but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I choose to live in the light of His definition of beauty. To hear Him say, “Look, my child. Look at all that I call beautiful” and repeat His beautiful whispers to my children, and myself. Every day.
I haven’t always loved what I saw when I looked in the mirror. But I love the One whose image I bear. And He calls me beautiful.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie on her blog encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.