Once upon a time there lived a girl who suffered from a rare disorder which had caused her to be born with a birthmark covering most of the right side of her body. The girl was very self-conscious, for her birthmark was very unsightly. Other children laughed and pointed. Adults shook their heads sadly and whispered to one another about it. But aside from her birthmark, the girl was pretty normal, and she had the same hopes and dreams as other girls.
When the girl grew up, she met a boy. The boy was sweet and kind and didn't seem even to notice the girl's birthmark. The boy fell in love with the girl and asked her to marry him, which she gladly did. They had a sweet marriage and they had three boys of their own, none of whom inherited her rare disorder. The years drew on, and they were happy.
But the boy, a family man now, could tell that the girl, a grown woman now, was still bothered by her birthmark. He could tell that she didn't see herself the way he saw her. So he decided to do something about it. At great trouble and significant expense, he arranged for her to have a professional portrait made of herself. He knew the portrait would be lovely, and he wanted his wife to be able to see that lovely image and to know that this was the way he saw her.
That's a true story. I know that story because I am the girl. When my husband and I had been married 15 years, he arranged for me to have a portrait made. He wanted me to be able to see myself as he sees me--not as a woman marred by an unsightly birthmark, but as the one he loves.
My story is probably not the same as yours. You probably don't have a rare disorder that caused a birthmark covering much of your body. But I'm willing to bet that you feel marked in some way.
Perhaps you are underweight, or maybe you are overweight. Perhaps you have too much hair, or maybe your hair is falling out. Perchance you are extremely short, or it may be that you are remarkably tall. Maybe you are very shy and feel that you never know what to say, or perhaps you're very outspoken and often feel that you talk too much. Chances are good that you possess some characteristic that seems to be the most noticeable thing about you.
But I have good news for you. That flaw that feels so obvious, that characteristic which causes you such distress, that issue that feels completely insurmountable (I know how it feels, believe me!)--no matter what it is--it doesn't define you. You may find this hard to believe, but the way you see yourself is not necessarily the way others see you.
And above all, that's not the picture of you that God carries in his heart.
You're not perfect, are you? But you don't have to be. God sees you as His beloved child. He thinks of you in the same way that a proud papa thinks of his newborn--not as a red, wrinkly, funny-looking little creature, but as the most beautiful baby ever to be born. He looks at you through eyes of love and grace, and He is so proud of you.
Sometimes, when I'm not feeling very pretty, I look at my portrait. I remind myself that the portrait is a more faithful picture of how my husband sees me than the image I see in the mirror. Perhaps you need that kind of portrait of yourself. Here's a word picture for you to pull out and remember on those days:
"The king is enthralled by your beauty. Honor him, for he is your Lord" (Psalm 45:10).
It's hard to believe, isn't it? God knows that. But He wants you to believe. Listen to these words from Ephesians 3:
"I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power. . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."
See? The prayer is that you have power--not power to do great things or accomplish wonderful works--but power to understand the love of Christ. A love that surpasses knowledge--including your knowledge of your flaws. A love that sees you through the lens of grace.
It's a beautiful picture.