Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Getting a grip on the good stuff...

This morning I changed clothes 17 times before leaving the house. I wish I was exaggerating, but, shamefully, I am completely serious. Today is just a normal day, but the reason I am telling you all about it is because for whatever inexplicable reason I feel somehow consumed by the mighty pressure the world has put on my self-esteem, and I think I'm sick of it.

This summer, I went absolutely berserk in the personal hygiene aisle at Target. I bought teeth-whitening strips, expensive shampoo and conditioning treatments, self-tanner, special exfoliating body wash, night cream, day cream, afternoon cream (kidding) … you name it, I bought it. For whatever reason I was convinced that if I just had whiter teeth, tanner skin, smaller pores, and shinier hair then something would be monumentally different about my life. I was certain I would somehow feel more attractive or confident, pampered and refreshed. I even justified the ridiculous amount of money I was spending because I was also sure that Jesus would be okay with me being prettier... (I know what you're thinking)

So what transpired over the coming months was something everyone else in the world could’ve seen coming but that I, naturally, did not. Instead of all of those products making me feel beautiful and lovely, they made me more and more stressed out (yet, I admit, adequately moisturized). My brain said: "Am I doing enough? Did I apply this hair product correctly? Will my skin look good enough for my hair? Will everyone notice my smaller pores?" (In case you were wondering- They didn’t.)

Through it all, I was working with a church focused on inner city youth. I spent my days incorporating a non-profit, co directing a summer camp for 45 children, planning bible lessons, watching little-league games, and helping needy families meet hold it together through the summer months. Every day I was doing real Kingdom work, all the while preoccupied with moisturizer and sit-ups.

What a metaphor that is for our struggle with our self-esteem. We can be doing all this really great stuff, and yet we are most passionately concerned about how we look doing it. I do believe part of that is a societal thing; all the stress the world puts on women obviously pushes those concerns to the forefront of my mind. But as a daughter of the flesh-blind God, it’s my job to keep a level-head about all that nonsense. I wish I could tell you I did.

But to finish the metaphor, let me tell you how my summer panned out. What I remember now about my summer are the times when I was with the people who are the most precious to me. Sweating like crazy with my camp kids in Audobon park, Getting covered in powder sugar at cafe du monde with out of town visitors, getting soaked in the rain with my firend/mentor/co-director Perry shopping for supplies, and eating a huge plate of Charbroiled Oysters at Drago's with Myrna and Kelly. I have to tell you, those Oysters might have been the best half hour of my life. And there were, like, crushed bits of Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs on the top... SO good. Anyway, I honestly can't remember what I looked like or wore to any of those events, and to be honest I don't remember being preoccupied with how I looked doing them. I’m not kidding. It is no small miracle that God somehow managed to create precious memories that don't involve any of that silly stuff, and I am so thankful that he did. He is a merciful God, who somehow still finds me worthy to love.

My track record makes no promises, but I'm really hoping to learn to somehow stop putting so much value on outward appearences and start focusing more on my heart. If you struggle like me, we are constantly trying to live up to some expectation; whether it’s looking "appropriately pretty" on your wedding day, wearing the "right shirt" to a party, or not saying the wrong thing in a group of "cool" people. But at the end of the day, what we are doing will always matter so much more than how we look doing it. Praise God for that. May I grow to a point where there is more of him and less of me.

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.- 1 Sam 16:7


Anonymous said...

I like what you said about God loving the real us that manifests itself in love and self sacrifice. Sounds like a great church to work for.

Not sure I understand the need for moisturizer in New Orleans though...

Love you much,
Your favorite uncle K

Jenny said...

While I didn't notice your smaller pores, I did notice your pretty white teeth and was envious...

But you're right--- when I tell people about the awesome young woman who comes back every summer to work with church, it's always about all the great stuff you do, and your infectious laugh... well, okay, and your great smile...
Love you Jenny