Where do you put your self-worth? Someone asked me this once and I laughed. I looked around my room that evening and saw where my self-worth was. It was in the makeup strewn on the side, that I spend ages applying every morning and in the clothes that are bulging out of my wardrobe. This is where my self-worth is. It is in the mirror that hangs on the wall. The one I took ages picking making sure it was the one that made me look my best. This is where I put my self-worth. It is in the gym I pay for but never go to and the comments of praise from those around me. My self-worth cannot be found in the scars across my body. It’s not found in my useless leg, or in the dreams I have left behind.
I used to believe God would heal me. I would pray fervently, unceasingly for a day that my body would be perfect. Slowly the prayers faded away. Am I still not healed due to my lack of faith? Did God just ignore my cries because he has a larger plan at work? My Mum says that God makes everyone beautiful but if that is the case why am I not on the front of a magazine?
I met a stranger a few months ago who challenged all my views. Told me that I had been looking at everything backwards. That God never fails and he hasn’t failed with me.
I was reluctant to listen at first and thought that maybe I could challenge him. So I asked him: if God does make everyone beautiful then why am I not making millions as a supermodel. He laughed and I didn’t think that was very nice and so he quoted the Genesis Chapter 29 verses 16 to 17:
Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful.
He went on to explain that the Bible never said that we would all be beautiful but that we would all be unique. Unique and perfect in our own right. We cannot all fit the mould of perfect in the beauty standards from the culture of today. I had missed the point. I had been putting my value on to my beauty when I should have been placing it in a higher system: God’s.
So I tested again. Isn’t what’s on the inside that counts anyway? He almost looked disappointed when I asked that question, as if I was trying to trick him (which I was). Making the inside count more can help us to stop focusing on the temporal (secular world) but do I really believe it? Do I not believe more readily that if I was just that bit thinner; prettier; look older; younger; whatever I am feeling that day that I would be happier. I wrestle with the flesh believing that a lasting joy comes from me, not Jesus and so I need to shift my focus from one of self to one of Jesus.
But would I really be Christian if I didn’t test for a third time? This time there was no question just a statement of testing. So I apologised to the stranger, almost believing I had seen the error of my ways. I declared that while I understood all that he had explained, I would continue to struggle with it and it was just a part of who I am. I will always naturally feel that way and I may as well resign to the fact. This time the stranger was definitely disappointed, there is no denying that. It was as if I had watched a movie when I had seen the detail but missed the plot line. There is hope. Jesus provided hope for us all. There may always be a struggle but rather than be defeated I need to see that Jesus provides a new path for me to follow. A hope that through the Gospel I can find what I need to fight and overcome the doubts.
The stranger left me in a new state. One where I was willing to listen and to do the work but yet still nowhere near the finished article. If there was hope, if I just needed to change my focus what would that mean to me? That night I passionately began to pray. I needed to make a start to understand what had happened. I took out my dusty Bible and began to read and as I read the following passage tears began to stream down my face:
Now Thomas one of the twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’
But he said to them, ‘Unless I see nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’
Jesus’ resurrected body had scars! Even more than that, his body was disabled as Thomas could put his hand in his side. His resurrected body wasn’t healed, it wasn’t made perfect because it was uniquely perfect. And if Christ’s body was perfect in spite what society would describe of its flaws then maybe my body is also uniquely perfect in the eyes of God. If I can learn to rest in God, through mind, body and spirit, then I can become who I was created to be.
My body and mind are far from perfect. I bear mental and physical scars. I am not perfect. How can I become who God created to be when I am shaped by what I am unable to do? Do I need to await my transformation? Christ’s resurrected body may have been disabled but He was far from dis-abledby it, so can I do nothing until I get my resurrected body?
I grappled with this for days. My relationship has changed so much with my body throughout its times of weakness and so has my relationship with God. Am I nothing now? Why would God need me to feel so small, so unable? What is the point?
I think I went through all the stages of grief. I denied that He was even real. Then I raged at Him for not making it simple, for putting me through so much pain. I begged that He just heal me now and I would do anything that He asked of me and then I sank into unbearable hopelessness. Until I began to see what I could do. Accept the gifts God had given me in spite of my weakness, despite my weaknesses. Growing to love who I am, what I have to offer. My body has become a Spiritual Discipline, an offering to God alongside prayer. I nurture it, I take care of it and understand it for what it is. Just one of my links to God and His links to me. I use it to honour Him. To become a living sacrifice.
Since my awakening I have journeyed with others along the way. Those who were ahead of me and those yet to join the dots. But what I have come to realise is that there are others just like me. Those just in the next pew over. The Church is full of those plagued with the thoughts of what they are unable to do. It is inevitable the Church comes face to face with these people and yet I haunted by thoughts that we are not doing enough?
God’s call to me now seems simple. To love the body He gave, that He chose for me. To use it to honour Him, in service for Him. I do still struggle but I no longer have despair but hope. Hope in a Jesus who has shown me the way to transformation. A hope that I am more than good enough.