We live in a world of masks. A world encompassed by makeup, concealer, and control top pantyhose, a world comprised of hair product, wrinkle cream and tanning beds.
A popular sentiment among women is “if you can’t tone it, tan it!”— with little regard to potential long term side effects such as skin cancer. It’s a world that worships the surface without putting near as much emphasis on the internal.
When did hiding become beautiful?
Lately, my seven-year daughter lately has been obsessed with me taking off my makeup at the end of the day. Why?
So she can see the freckles on my cheeks and forehead.
It amazes her that makeup completely hides them all day long. We’ll be sitting in the chair together at the end of the evening, watching a Disney show or coloring, and she’ll suddenly grab my cheeks and squint hard. “Do you have the freckles, Mama?” If I haven’t washed my face yet, she’ll demand I do so before she goes to bed.
Daily I cover up something that's one of her favorite parts about me.
It’s not about the freckles for me. There’s nothing wrong with wearing makeup, nothing wrong with freckles, and I’m not intentionally trying to hide them. I like makeup for other reasons. But there are other flaws I do try to hide.
As women, we struggle with this daily. We dress to minimize our hips and thighs, we suck in our stomachs after we eat, we invest in padded bras and spend a ton of money to cover up gray hair, crow’s feet, and laugh lines. We furiously rub firming lotion over our stretch marks and scars. We bronze this, highlight that, shadow those. Even going so far as to have surgery to enhance, decrease, or lift various parts of our bodies.
What if we put even half as much effort into being real as we put into hiding?
It’s not just the external. We hide our internal flaws, too. We paste on a smile when depression is nipping at our ankles. We say “fine, thanks” when asked how we are, despite the fact that we know our marriage is hanging by a rapidly fraying thread. We grit our teeth instead of cry, bite our tongues instead of confess our sin, and basically do everything we can in the name of “hiding our crazy” because we think that beauty is in the cover-up.
But all this does is contribute to a comparison-mindset that is destroying women from the inside out. We see what we think is a woman who has it all together, and admire her from afar, secretly berating ourselves for not being perfect like she is. We hide, because we think we are less than. We hide, because we think we will be judged or rejected for the truth.
But what if we were real, even in our flaws? What if we embraced them—dare I suggest even celebrated them—as life’s mile markers? Celebrate the gray hairs that prove how wisdom comes with age. Celebrate the stretch marks that are evidence of birthing new life into the world. Celebrate the laugh lines that reveal seasons of great joy.
What if we celebrated the divorce that knocked us off our feet and into the waiting arms of Jesus? Celebrated the prodigal child that has yet to return home and has brought us to a new level of prayer? Celebrated the financial crisis that drained our account and filled us with peace that passes all understanding? Celebrated the sin that nudged us to the cross and then celebrated the grace that kept us there?
Sometimes our biggest testimony isn’t meant to be shared when the war is over. It’s a story to be told in the middle of the frontlines of battle. We don’t have to have already overcome something before we talk about it with others.
Because you know what? Sometimes the biggest testimony is the most effective before The End is written.
Sometimes those around us need to see us in the emotional and spiritual equivalent of wearing rollers and bathrobes to Wal-Mart. They need to see that they aren’t alone, they aren’t failing, and there’s no reason to hide.
They need to see that healing comes when we get real, take off the mask, and simply say “This is me.”
Psalm 139:14-15 says “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”
Real is beautiful. Even—maybe especially—in it’s most raw, chaotic, messy form. So often what we view as flaws or blemishes are actually pieces of the best parts of us that God wants to use—if we would just surrender them.
What do you need to surrender? What mask are you wearing today? What shame do you try to hide from your past that could be a platform for helping others heal? What embarrassment are you attempting to conceal?
Trust God with it. Believe He can bring beauty from ashes. Ask Him to help you embrace it for His glory and then use it to encourage someone in your path.
I’m going to go wash my face.
Betsy St. Amant has a heart for three things - chocolate, new shoes and sharing the amazing news of God's grace through her novels. She lives in Louisiana with her adorable story-telling young daughter, a collection of Austen novels, and an impressive stash of Pickle Pringles. A freelance journalist and fiction author, Betsy is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and is multi-published in Contemporary Romance. Her newest novel LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES releases via Zondervan Fiction in June 2015. When she’s not reading, writing, or singing along to the Tangled soundtrack with her daughter, Betsy enjoys inspirational speaking and teaching on the craft of writing and can usually be found somewhere in the vicinity of a white-chocolate mocha. You can read more from Betsy at www.betsystamant.com and ww