And the self-consciousness.
I do pretty well in the wintertime. When I'm wearing long pants or jeans, I feel pretty good about myself. But as soon as I start wearing summer clothes, I start focusing on all that's wrong with me.
I've worn a pretty dress to church a couple of times lately, like this one on Mother's Day. My husband snapped some photos of me after church.
Cute, huh? I fixed my hair a little more glam than usual for Mother's Day:
I've received lots of compliments on my dresses. Several people have commented on how bright and springy I've looked. But you know what's been on my mind? My legs. Summer clothes always make me think about my legs. Or, specifically, about my birthmark.
And, sure enough, a new friend who'd never really seen my legs approached and laughingly said, "Have you been playing in the poison ivy?"
That was a completely innocent question. It was a light-hearted but concerned remark. No insult was intended, and I know it. So I gave my standard answer in an equally light-hearted voice, "No, it's just a birthmark."
Later that same day, though, another person asked about my birthmark. Although she's known me for awhile, she had never before noticed my birthmark. After remarking on it, she said, "It doesn't bother you, does it?" She was sincere. She's a good person, and she's my friend, but I didn't know how to answer her.
The honest answer is that my birthmark does bother me. It always has. That's the truth, and it's taken an awful lot of soul-searching for me to be able to admit it. But I've developed another problem.
You see, I don't want to be bothered by it. I want to be able to view it through God's eyes. I want to rest assured that God looks on the heart and isn't a bit troubled by my birthmark. I know this is the truth. I know it in my head, that is. I want to know it in my heart. I feel like I should know it in my heart. I feel ashamed that I don't already have complete confidence in this.
Lately, though, a funny thing has happened to me. I've started admitting to God when I have feelings that I'm ashamed of. I told Him that I feel like I'm lagging behind in being well-adjusted regarding this birthmark thing. I apologized to Him. I told Him that I knew that I shouldn't feel bad about my birthmark.
And when I did that, God spoke to me.
Does that sound crazy to you? I don't mean that God spoke out loud to me, although He could certainly do that if He so chose. I believe that He usually speaks to us through His written word. But this time God spoke directly to me. When I told Him that I knew that I shouldn't feel bad about my birthmark, guess what He said?
He said, "You didn't hear that from Me."
What? At first I didn't understand. But as I've puzzled and studied and meditated about it, I think I've finally realized what He meant.
It IS true that the Lord looks on the heart. It IS true that God loves me just as I am, that He's not at all bothered by the fact that my body is so imperfect. But I was thinking that God was disappointed in me because I still struggle with what I know to be a superficial issue. I was ashamed of myself because this issue is difficult for me.
I've finally realized that my feelings about it aren't at all offensive to God. I've been ashamed because I'm not spiritually mature enough that my birthmark doesn't bother me. I've wanted to be able to say, "My birthmark used to bother me, but I've learned that it really doesn't matter." God is teaching me that He would far rather that I just be honest with Him.
I love to read the sixth chapter of Matthew's gospel, where Jesus teaches that we shouldn't worry about things. And I love to read the eleventh chapter of the same book, where Jesus invites us to lay down our burdens and partake of His rest. As I've read these lately, I've realized something I never realized before:
Jesus is very sympathetic.
He doesn't demand that I have a handle on my feelings. He doesn't require that I already be more spiritually mature than I am. He knows that something as superficial as a birthmark has been a really hard thing to deal with. He doesn't chastise me by saying that it shouldn't bother me. He doesn't say, "No one ever notices it; it's no big deal." He knows all about my pain, and He doesn't pressure me to get over it. He just invites me to give it to Him, to let Him carry it.
And now I'm wondering: is there anyone else who struggles like this? Do you? Is there anything that bothers you, but at the same time makes you think that you shouldn't be bothered by it? Is there anything that you've felt like you couldn't really be honest with God about? I'd sure like to hear about it.