We just had our family vacation. The beach. And I must confess, this was the worst year ever. For shallow reasons, I suppose. Simply, I never felt as ugly in all my life. My hair is not so great (I’ve been chopping on it myself) and all my clothes are too tight. To top things off, the sunblock broke my face out.
So, I just didn’t feel so good about myself. Still don’t. No, this is not how I expected to turn out by the Summer of my 44th year. A woman with fat rolls, pimply skin and a bad haircut. So not beautiful…
Yep, my outward appearance caused me to feel so unsightly. I even voiced it to my husband.
“I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin,” is what I said.
One thing life’s taught me is there are no accidents. I don’t believe in coincidences and timing is everything. Like the book I began reading on the way to the beach (Without Rival by Lisa Bevere). I really needed that first chapter.
The author challenged the reader to ask herself, “Who am I?” She said to pause before God and have Him whisper three words over her. And it was to be about who you are, not what you do. Well, I silently told God He’d have to tell me because I really didn’t know.
A few things came to me but I wasn’t sure if it was God or me. So afterward, I kept my heart, mind and soul open for clarification. I waited to see if He’d whisper one of those words over me a second time…
You know what? He gave me another word instead. It happened at the movie theater of all places. And through the voices of actors. (Spoiler alert if anyone plans to go to the movies soon… I’ll try to be vague).
See, there was an orphaned woman who didn’t know who her father was. And in a dramatic scene, she fell through the air only to be caught by this man she was on an adventure with. When she discovered a particular marking on his arm she knew the truth. This was her father.
So she peered into his eyes and said, “Who am I to you?” Yes, she echoed the very words I whispered to my heavenly Father just days before as I traveled down the Interstate.
“Who am I… to You?”
The actors replied? “A treasure.” He said she was a treasure. That’s when I knew God was speaking to me, His daughter. He told me I am His treasure. No question. No doubt. Because as I said, there are no accidents in life. I don’t believe in coincidences and timing is everything.
Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead, it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 1 Peter 3:3-4
I have to say, when you feel pretty down about yourself, being told you’re a treasure is an instant upper. Nothing changed about my outer but my inner felt better for I was assured by my Father. I have value. I am treasured. Nothing at all to do with fat rolls and pimples…
Friday came and with it, one of my daily devotionals. It was called “Lasting Beauty” and it seemed quite timely. Not an accident. It included the above verse and by the time this week rolled around, I felt like I had my words. I self-assuredly proclaimed to myself, “I am treasured, valuable and beautiful!”
But you know what? I think I got the last part wrong. I don’t think God was telling me I’m beautiful. Instead, He was pointing me to someone who was beautiful. I found it in the verses that followed…
For in the past, the holy women who hoped in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do good and aren’t frightened by anything alarming. 1 Peter 3:5-6
I tell you what, I’ve read that passage multiple times over the years but never, ever saw the last verse. The one about being frightened. It just never registered.
But this week, I’ve been studying our matriarch, Sarah. And she was beautiful inside and out. We know this because we read it in Genesis. She had outward beauty. However, it’s the inward that intrigues me now. And in truth, this is what God was pointing me to all along. Even when He told me I was His treasure.
“There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life… we are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety.” A.W. Tozer
I’m sure I heard God right. I am His treasure. But you know what? I have a little treasure, too. Her name is Annabelle. And the beach trip I said was so bad because of my outer? Well, if I dig a bit deeper, I find truth. I know it has to do with my inner. It’s all the fear I carry.
Especially with water.
The very first day, I was nearly overcome by anxiety as I watched Annabelle walk around the edge of the pool. And I could never fully relax when she was in the water. I can’t even tell you how sick I was as I watched the ocean waves roll… Oh, I was just nauseated with my fear.
I’d follow my little treasure down to the water and hold her hands tight. She was not allowed to go by herself. Not even to her ankles. If it wasn’t me, Me-Maw or Daddy had to hold her tight. See, if our grip was tight enough, there’s be no accidents. As long as we never let go…
But even as I stood there gripping her hands tight, I was frightened. Alarmed. Scared to death of losing her.
And being near the water is just a small portion of the fear. There’s germs in public bathrooms. She could get hit by a car in the parking lot. The spot on her chest that’s just an infection could be cancer. The tick my kitty carried inside could have Rocky Mountain Spotted fever…
Oh, God help me, the list goes on and on and on. Countless things that could happen all leading to one thing. The death of my child.
And so, I’m led to Sarah, my matriarch who was beautiful. She had a gentle and quiet spirit and she was submissive to her husband. Abraham. And herein lies the key. Here’s why I think that line about not being frightened by anything alarming is in that 1 Peter passage. Because Sarah could have been scared to death!
“Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” Genesis 22:2
Sarah was an old woman when God opened her womb. When God said she’d become pregnant, she asked would she now have delight in her old age?
Delight is what she said.
Alas, God gave Abraham a test of faith. And for the very first time, I consider Sarah in this scenario. And I never have before. But no doubt it was a test of her faith no less than her husband’s.
So imagine with me for a minute… There’s Sarah with her long awaited son, the one she loved more than anything, and her husband comes along and says he needs to sacrifice Isaac to God. How do you think she reacted? How would any of us mothers react?
“You want to do what? No way am I letting you take my boy. NO WAY! Are you crazy?”
Do you think she clung to Isaac? How broken she must have been when she released his hand to her husband and to God’s will. Wondering if she’d ever see him again.
But see, she knew God’s promise. God promised the blessing would come through her own son’s offspring. Through Isaac, the one to be sacrificed. So surely she must have had the faith to know that good was still coming her son’s way.
Good still coming her way…
And so, she permitted her husband to take Isaac. She released her grip. She must not have reacted as I would have. Instead, she must have been quiet and submissive to her lord’s will. Yes, she let her son go and wasn’t frightened by anything alarming.
That’s what Scripture says. The book of 1 Peter says this is how the holy women beautified themselves in days of old. They did not fear.
It had nothing to do with fat rolls, pimples and a bad haircut. It had nothing to do with ornate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Sarah’s beauty had everything to do with her quiet spirit and fearlessness. It had to do with her spirit of submission…
Even if death were the outcome.
A picture of the Jesus to come.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
I just have to smile at all this. Because I am amazed at how God moves and speaks in one’s life. I am in awe of how he uses different sources and materials to speak. And how he gently points out something that’s not right on the inside. Like what’s inside me.
Yes, I’m right back at fear. Just like I was when my son, Levi, was this age. Oh, how I feared for his safety. Still do.
And water is one of my greatest foes. That’s why vacations are so bad for me. When water’s involved, I am ugly on the inside. All twisted up.
How evident this was when we spent Thanksgiving at the beach. The four of us went for a walk and the surf rolled Annabelle. I was angry because I didn’t want her that close to the water so Jason and I parted not so nicely. Me with our daughter and he with our son.
When Jason and Levi didn’t immediately return to the house, I became nervous. Then frantic. So frantic I left Annabelle with my mom and went walking. I walked and walked but they were nowhere. I confess, I believed they’d been swallowed up by the ocean. Gone. Death taking them from me…
When they finally loomed on the horizon, I quickly went to them and burst into tears. Overcome by anxiety and fear.
And so this is my lesson. This is what God wants me to see. I have allowed fear to overcome me. And this is why beautiful isn’t one of my three words. Because I haven’t beautified myself in the manner of Sarah.
Unlike my matriarch, I allow myself to become frightened by what’s alarming. And to me, water is terrifying.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear… 1 John 4:18
It started with a word. God whispered treasure over me. And that, I am. No less than my daughter is to me. Moreover, she is a delight. And this happens to be one of the words I wrote down in my journal as we traveled to the beach.
I thought perhaps God whispered precious, sweet and delight over me. Later, I added treasure and beautiful. All these I thought God might be speaking over me.
And through a movie, he assures me I am a treasure. And through the words of my spiritual mother, I know I’m a delight. Because that’s what Sarah called her own child. Yes, that’s what God’s speaks over me today, His daughter.
As to beautiful, that’s not one of my words. Not yet, anyway. But it has nothing to do with being thirty pounds overweight and broken out skin. Instead it has everything to do with my insides.
It’s what I’ve been housing inside me. All this irrational fear and the worries of a thousand what-ifs. But He’s so good to me. He patiently instructs me and shows me how I can be beautiful.
See, the path to beauty is found in the way of Sarah. And I have hope that one day, I’ll be just that. When I’m freed from all my fear. When I’m no longer frightened of the alarming could-be’s..
I will be.
In contrast to that, there is an invisible Jerusalem, a free Jerusalem, and she is our mother – this is the way of Sarah. Galatians 4:26