By: Danielle Calhoun
In this day and age, we are inundated with messages and experiences that have the potential to derail our peace and impact our walk. Most sisters can’t go a day without being reminded by social media, advertisements, and news stories that we need to look a certain way, fit a certain size, eat certain foods, and feel (or not feel) certain feelings. So, more often than not, we set an invisible bar inside our hearts to try and present ourselves with these unrealistic standards of ‘put togetherness’ in our minds. Subtly, or not so subtly, we wrestle with our SELF-image, instead of warmly accepting and welcoming the IMAGE we’ve been so intricately given to reflect by God. We are His image bearers, are we not? Why is it so hard sometimes to love the image He has given us to bear?
“Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”
Ephesians 4:24 NLT
Jesus didn’t ask us to show up to our Bible study with it all together, rocking all of the newest fashion trends. He cares not if we have all the boxes of societal expectations of outward beauty checked off upon our arrival.
We are simply asked to show up AS WE ARE in Him. For me, that looks like a hot mess. I am a messy, imperfect, flawed, authentic human saved by God’s love and grace. When I arrive at your doorstep, there will be no makeup, designer clothes, or well coiffed hair. You will find me smiling (or crying, let’s be real here) with hair that hasn’t been brushed in a few days, maybe some kid-flung food on my pants, and a purse full of trash and crumbs that could survive a nuclear apocalypse. This is what AUTHENTICITY looks like in my life right now. We each journey through seasons differently, all Christ asks is for us to be honest and READY to serve and be present with Him. If Jesus calls us to show up, ‘be love’ and overflow grace and compassion onto every single person we engage with, even our enemies, should we not extend the same love and grace to ourselves?
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV
The early church understood the impact of embracing each other with this authentic presence well. I recently read a historical context breakdown with reference to the Letter of Colossians. In Chapter 4, Paul mentions Nympha’s home church. It was believed that Nympha was very wealthy and educated, while the group as a whole was a vast variety of characters from different social class structures and backgrounds. Many in attendance couldn't read, so they awaited the letters from Paul and arrived eager to listen to his new instructions. Several of the women in attendance were widows, too. During those days, caring for widows was incredibly controversial to the government. They were often rejected and cast aside, unless they were blessed enough to be wealthy and self-sufficient or even forced to remarry against their wishes. They believed challenging or tampering with the Pax Romana (the set of societal rules that explained the power dynamics that maintained order) was dangerous to the peace within the home and thus would overflow into every other arena of life. So when lonely widows arrived vulnerable, hungry, haggard, and hurting from neglect, it was typically taboo and frowned upon to serve them. But guess what? Those widows…THOSE SISTERS IN CHRIST…THEY SHOWED UP AS THEIR AUTHENTIC SELVES! A mess, but they showed up, nonetheless, thirsty for the Word, ready to engage and contribute to the Gospel.
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
Colossians 3:12 MSG
So when I feel down about gaining a few pounds or tempted to enter into the self-hatred area of ‘not good enough-ness,’ I am reminded and renewed in my spirit that Christ’s love and grace are the only things my self-image needs today. I am enough and perfectly made new each morning by His love and goodness.