Last night I had a lightbulb moment.
It felt similar to how I felt as a kid in elementary school, when my patient mother sat with me, explaining the concept of division over and over. I would usually end up in tears, convinced that I would never be good at math, my dreams of passing third grade fading quickly. Mom would say, “Charlotte, you’re not able to think clearly if you’re crying. Go get a drink of water and come back in a couple minutes to try again.” That breathing space was all I needed. I would come back to my books, Mom would stop whatever she was doing and sit with me to explain everything again, from the beginning. And suddenly, I would get it. For no reason, it would just dawn on me and I would understand, just that quickly. As if a lightbulb had turned on in my head and illuminated the answer. A concept that I couldn’t get into my brain seconds earlier would suddenly become perfectly clear to me.
Last night, out of nowhere, God turned on a light in the dusty caverns of my mind, blew the dust off a good book, and opened the pages. My eyes still blinking in the sudden light, I realized what He’s always wanted me to see. I’ve spent twenty-seven and a half years disliking parts of myself because I thought they were flaws. I can almost imagine God smiling as He gently explained, for probably the millionth time–
“Child, you can’t think clearly if you’re distracted with your own self-criticism. These areas of your physical appearance that you dislike are not flaws. I am not an amateur creator. No, I am the perfect Designer of all of creation. Every part of you is intentional.”
I am intentionally made.
I’ve always been plagued by my jawline. It’s crooked. I have a sideways overbite which makes my smile crooked, and gives me a nice cheekbone on one side of my face and absolutely no angles on the other. I know, I know…no one else ever notices this about me. But I’ve spent years agonizing over it, wishing it away, feeling self-conscious. I’ve even wondered if there was some device I could use to move my jaw back into place so I could have that beautifully angular face I’ve always wanted. I’ve felt broken.
My jawline was intentionally made.
God created my smile and loved it. He said it is good. He made me like one of billions of snowflakes…the same overall concept, but a completely unique and purposeful design. He said “I’m going to give My daughter this slightly crooked jawline, because it adds that touch of character to her smile. It’s like a thumbprint; it makes her unique. She’s the only one I’m going to design with this particular smile. She is beautiful and I love her just like this. I am happy with my work.”
I’ve been critical of my too-wide hips and thighs since I was a child. Seriously. I would go to the pool with my friends when I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old, see their skinny little girl legs, and suddenly feel so conspicuously huge in my one-piece swimsuit. Surely everyone noticed how round I was! I started dieting by nine years old. I thought if I only ate half a sandwich at lunch and skipped an afternoon snack, I could change my shape. Change my design.
God created my shape. He spent time on me. He intentionally formed me, like a potter forming a beautiful vase. His hands shaped my curves. Some he made narrow, some wide. He is the Perfect Potter. He doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t have “oops” pieces that get slapped with a discount sticker and stuck on a dusty shelf somewhere. When He was finished designing me, He looked at me and said “She is good.”
My shape is intentional.
My criticism is not limited to just my physical body. You know that elementary struggle with math I mentioned? I have never conquered it. My mind just doesn’t work that way. Math and science are in an entirely different realm, and no matter how I tried, I simply have never been able to understand them. So I’ve felt stupid. I’ve felt undereducated. I never made it past Algebra 1 in high school, and I dropped out of Chemistry halfway through because my honor roll report card was being marred with the Ds I had started receiving.
God did not accidentally leave that part out when He was putting together the complex facets of my brain. He knew He wanted me to be a writer, and that is where He concentrated the understanding. He gave me the ability to love and understand words almost as easily as I know how to breath. Maybe if I had been good at math and science I would have been tempted to take a different path in life. But because they’ve never been a distraction for me, I’ve never had any doubt of what I wanted to do. When I was eight years old, I carefully copied my favorite poems from Anne Bradstreet and Elizabeth Barrett Browning into my diary, then wrote in big bubble letters with a purple colored pencil, “I want to be a POET when I grow up!” I’ve never swayed from that dream. (Although you won’t find me writing much poetry these days!).
The design of my brain was intentional.
These are a few examples of my own self-criticism that have been illuminated. I have no doubt there are many more to come. More books pulled off the shelf, more deep breaths exhaled to blow dust off the angry, degrading words I’ve written against myself…against my Creator. More repentance for my harshness towards myself. More healing as I realize how beautiful I am. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of the One who intentionally designed me.
And He said, “She is good.”