I heard Rebekah Lyons say that transparency is sharing where you’ve been & vulnerability is sharing where you’re at. I’m way better at the former, writing about the battle after it’s been won, after I’ve figured out the solution… so here’s me trying to embrace vulnerability.
If you would have asked me about a week ago what part of myself I felt most confident in, I would have responded that I have great skin. After being traumatized by some middle-school acne, that fact that I could roll out of bed, wear no makeup, & feel naturally good in my skin was a luxury. I’d even get compliments on my clear skin & complexion. This sounds sad, but it was the one thing I was really happy with about my appearance.
Until it was gone.
I woke up about a week ago with what I thought was just some stress-acne around my mouth. However, a few days later it started itching and burning and escalated into a full blown rash around my entire face. I’m talking bumps all over my forehead, itchy red blotches around my mouth. It’s a form of dermatitis, Perioral dermatitis, that doctors don’t really know the cause of and could be chronic/recurring. Basically you can just wake up one day with it & no one has a simple fix… SUPER FUN. I’ll attach a photo at the bottom if you really want to see (and it looks better in the photo than real life…sadly).
But it brought back all of my insecurity issues & brought me truly low. I don’t broadcast it because self-deprecation isn’t a good look, but I’m not really someone who considers myself beautiful. You can tell me that, but I’m not going to believe it. So imagine what a full-blown rash did to that fragile self-esteem. It was a “God are you serious right now, you’re taking the ONE thing I liked about my appearance, the ONE thing I was feeling good about.” The only word I could use to describe it was cruel & it brought up a solid divide between me & God. I couldn’t even sleep because of this dumb itchy rash that came out of nowhere & I was embarrassed to be seen in public… what truly felt like purposeless suffering.
But if I’ve learned anything it’s that sometimes… I think God does remove that “one thing” that we’ve been superficially clinging to for security. But not to be cruel like it first felt. It’s not because He isn’t good, but the opposite… it’s because He IS good that he intervenes, removes barriers to Him, allows us to go through something we feel is evil in the moment, but that he sees as being for our ultimate good. He loves us too much to let us cling to the very temporary, fallible, shakeable things we were rooting our security in. I don’t think it’s that God wants us to lose the things that made us happy, I just believe it’s that he wants our security to be rooted in something deeper– Him.
I listened to a sermon by Ben Stuart called “The Purpose of Pain” and it helped shift my perspective. He preached some truly game-changing, life-giving words that came in the exact moment I needed them. He shoots down the idea that God will never put us in circumstances that we can’t handle. Instead, he proclaims that actually, God will let you be overwhelmed, because it’s when you’re overwhelmed and in the midst of difficulty that you are forced to confront your own deficiency and lean on Him. Further, when we are able to meet this with humility, we have an opportunity to let suffering become a gift that shifts our perspective & grows us.
He starts talking about how pain can be a tool God uses to pry loose our grip on things that will naturally fade away… the things we were never meant to put our security in. He goes to an example that hit to the core… “If you woke up tomorrow and all of your looks were gone, how would you react? If this is devastating… you’re putting your security in the wrong thing.” DANG. I thought about how the night before I literally tried to look at my red inflamed face in the mirror & say I was beautiful and cried because I could not sincerely believe it… if a rash could devastate me like that, clearly I was putting my security in the wrong thing. Also, how sad and dishonoring that is to a God who made me to be so much more than my looks. To think that external beauty is what defines me, or what I should judge my happiness and confidence by. It’s fleeting. I’ve learned the hard way.
And no, I don’t think this will last forever. I’m on antibiotics now that I’m praying will get rid of whatever infection is causing this & praying that it doesn’t return… but if it did the point is that I would be okay. This has been a challenge, forcefully teaching me to stop placing my confidence in the ability to leave the house makeup-free with clear skin. In the grand scheme of things that truly matter… this doesn’t. And external appearance is something that’s guaranteed to fade.
Who wants to be remembered for being just a pretty face anyway? We were created to be so much more than that. I’m trying to embrace that regardless of what happens externally… if it all goes, that I can still find an unshakeable confidence in Christ, knowing that I’ve been fearfully and wonderfully made with a purpose that is mine & mine alone. When God looks at me he sees me as beautiful, with no flaws. (Soloman 4:7). Not because he made me to fit the world’s standard of perfection, but because He sees who he created me as (before I got caught up in the world’s idea of what I need to be). He sees a strong, resilient, confident, kind, grace-filled, girl, perfectly tailored for the plans He has for me that ultimately, will be for my good & His glory.
I was going to wait to write this when I fixed the issue, killed the infection, & my skin finally cleared. But I was missing the point. It’s not about the end, it’s about what I’m learning in the process. So this is me, taken today… in the middle of it.
Click here for a link to the sermon on Youtube if you’re interested, it’s also available via the Passion city DC podcast.