“I am beautiful”

Have you ever uttered those words to yourself? And if so, did you mean them?

Beauty can mean a few things. Yes, when we hear the word, we often think about someone’s or something’s outward appearance. For example, “Your hair is beautiful” or “Look at those leaves, aren’t they beautiful when they change colors?”

But that’s just the surface. True beauty goes so much deeper.

Cracked and broken hands are beautiful because of the work that lies behind them. Stretch marks from a pregnancy are beautiful because of the love it took to carry a child for nine months. Imperfections are beautiful because they showcase our uniqueness. Life is beautiful because it is inevitably flawed and in need of grace, just like us.

Beauty is not just seen by the tangible eye; oftentimes we need to look for it. True beauty doesn’t crave attention but is found in secret places, content in doing small but mighty things.

I think that’s what astounds me with children. Yes they are attention craving machines that always seek approval for the things they do (don’t we all), BUT they are living in lives of grace.

In the Gospel of Luke when the disciples were rebuking people for bringing their children to Jesus,

Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” Luke‬ ‭18:15-17‬.‬‬

Children see the world differently than adults do. They are not yet hindered by comparisons or stresses – they have a built-in confidence that isn’t shaken by the latest trends or workout plans. They aren’t worried about finances or where they’ll find their next meal. They have faith that everything will work out. And that’s beautiful.

I recently had some of my fourth graders write a Thanksgiving Acrostic in which they had to come up with one thing for each letter in the word T-H-A-N-K-S-G-I-V-I-N-G that they were thankful for. Some students wrote silly things and didn’t take the assignment very seriously, but this one girl did.

When I came across her responses, I paused when I got to the letter “I”.

(First of all, I’m thrilled that a girl in a public elementary school wrote “God is amazing” for “G” – that warms my heart. I don’t know these kids’ religious backgrounds since we can’t really talk about them in school, but it brings me joy to see that some of these kids know Jesus.)

But at letter “I”, her response almost brought me to tears.

“I am beautiful”

So simple and so true.

I find that I base my beauty on my performance. If I make mistakes or if I have breakouts on my face, if I’m extra moody or if my attitude stinks at times, if I have extra body fat in places I don’t like or if I feel like I can’t compete with the latest fashions or trends – my beauty feels diminished.

And men, I’m not just talking about women here. You have inward beauty too. How often do you feel your inward beauty being challenged by failure at work, a bout of road rage, financial complications, making mistakes as the leader of your family, or struggling to measure up to expectations only you are putting on yourself?

Men and women, we all struggle to find beauty as we devalue ourselves based on our circumstances. Let me be clear and say that I’m not writing this strictly for empowerment purposes. I’m not trying to boost our egos or make us feel like our shortcomings are something we need to ignore or brush aside. No, instead I encourage us to realize that our mistakes do not define us nor do they take away the authentic beauty found within a beating heart.

Maybe that sounds cliché, and it probably is, but that just means it needs to be said over and over again until the sentiment moves beyond redundancy to finally find a place in our heads.

Like this fourth grade girl, my wish is for all of us to claim our beauty instead of basing it off our circumstances. No questions, no doubts.

I encourage you to search beyond your vision to see if you can find beauty in the hidden places. I guarantee you will.

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