About two weeks ago, I finally heard a sentence that has been playing a subtext over in my head for years.
“You’re not beautiful, Kelly.”
Not your name. Not your body. Not your face. Not your personality. Not your words. Not your work. Not even your heart. You. are. not. beautiful.
The words pummeled me like bucket after bucket of freezing cold water thrown into my face until I finally stopped trying to duck the onslaught, until I lifted my face into it and submitted, until I was too numb to feel the shock anymore.
I didn’t know I believed it. I mean, I knew I was more comfortable behind the camera than I was in front of it. But I’ve pretty much tried to dress for my figure, and I fit regular size stuff, and I liked pretty things, and I believed that having Jesus in my heart makes me beautiful.
I’ve never been anorexic or bulemic, never dieted to lose weight, never really spent a lot of time thinking about how I measured up physically to others. I’ve never really compared myself to photoshopped movie stars, or overtly edited my self-portraits to achieve “perfection.”
But I did something else.
I hid from myself, from Pete, from God, from everyone. It didn’t look like I was hiding. But I was.
I didn’t look in the mirror. I barely checked my outfits; I overdressed. I tried not to look at pictures of myself. I shut up about my body because my “feeling fat” made others angry with me, because being sick wasn’t a good topic of conversation (or it was the only topic of conversation!), because everybody else was pretty or gorgeous or stunning, and goodness, I wasn’t that.
I was – and have been – ignoring me, and when I woke up two weeks ago and realized that I felt like everyone else in the world was ignoring me, I stopped ignoring me because darn it, SOMEBODY should see me.
And that’s when I felt it. The numbness began to lift, like anesthesia wearing off. I “saw” me all right. I “saw” what must be making everybody else ignore me, what was making me ignore me. Pain took over; numb was easier.
Right now, it is taking everything in me to hold myself together and take the next step, the next step, and the next. I am trying to believe that I don’t have to hide. To breathe past old wounds and be healthy instead of broken and too-needy. To believe that grace is enough for this place too, to let God be God and me be the way He created me, even if I am not what I want to be.
I don’t have an easy answer for this one – I don’t think anybody does. I am not begging you to tell me I am beautiful. I wouldn’t believe you anyway. I’d probably deflect you, let the good words roll off of me the way the bad words should, like water off a duck’s back.
What I do have is the fact that I am dust – and I think dust is beautiful because God does cool things with it. I might not believe I am beautiful, but I do believe beauty can be found where no one expects to find it. It’s just waiting to be noticed. And noticing is what I do.