The other day, I noticed my oldest daughter staring at her own face in the mirror for a very long time.
I used to do that.
I would lock my tween-age self in the bathroom of our two-story condo in Burbank, sit on top of the bathroom sink, and get as close as I could to the mirror, studying each pore as if I had to have their precise layout memorized by the next day. I’d softly recite the speech I was going to give my future love interest when he said, “Scarlet…I love you and I always have.”
I imagined that when he told me that, on our last day of 7th grade, I would be wearing a flower crown. My response would be something like, “I love you, too. I’ve loved you since the moment I saw you drawing UFO’s on the paper bag cover of your Earth Science book in Ms. Chang’s class. Also, you have handsome pores.”
I grew up with a very blonde and very blue-eyed and quite famous mother. She got a lot of positive attention everywhere we went. I looked nothing like her.
Something in me said that if only I looked like my beautiful, fawned over mother, I would be happy.
At twelve, I wasn’t allowed to dye my hair yet, so I would squeeze lemons into it and sit outside in direct sunlight. I’d read in Seventeen Magazine that lemon juice made hair turn blonde. I remember desperately sprinting indoors, to see if I was blonde yet.
I wasn’t. I was just very badly sunburned. Those were brutal years. No matter how many lemons I crushed, no matter how many pores I perused, I pretty much always looked like this.
Eventually, I discovered bleach and found love, and learned that no hair color or relationship can make me happy the way being known and loved by God can.
But now, I have daughters. I don’t want them to waste years, trying to look different and trying to be adored by the wrong people in the wrong places when they can enjoy the freedom and peace that I’m just now starting to grasp, thirty years into this life.
My oldest daughter is pretty confident and she’s suffered no shortage of compliments in her five years. But, I can already see the twinge of hurt wash over her face when people compliment her little sister’s bright blue eyes. I can already see the wheels turning as she tries to decipher the subtext. As she listens to the enemy’s convincing voice, for maybe the first time in her life, whispering, You’re not as beautiful as you should be. You’re not as special as you could be.
No matter how many times I tell Ever that I want to eat her beautiful brown eyes up like milk chocolate kisses, her deceitful little heart isn’t going to hear those words of affirmation as loud as the damaging messages the world will offer her.
You’re not enough unless you’re this…
You can’t be happy unless you buy this/ wear this/ have this/ look like this…
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” -Jeremiah 17:9
I can’t save my children from being broken humans. From chasing the wrong things. From believing lies. From having broken hearts that betray. From falling and crying and hurting.
But, I can tell them the Truth.
Ever, you’re not just beautiful because of those big, Hershey’s kiss eyes, and silky golden hair. You’re beautiful because you have been “fearfully and wonderfully made.” God said so! See? Psalm 139.
I pray that my girls will grow up to find the answers for their search for security and beauty and self-worth in the pages of God’s Word.
My 7th grade mind told me that a flower crown and some confidence would make me beautiful and happy. But even then, God was pursuing me. Even then, He was speaking in a still, small voice.
Scarlet, you are beautiful because you are mine and I love you. I promise to give you a crown of life. James 1:12
Jesus has been faithful through all my failures, showing me again and again that I can only ever find confidence and contentment in Him.
Now, as I fumble my way through each day, falling and failing and trying again to make my life more centered on a crown of life than on a crown of flowers, I pray that God will continue to transform me from that little girl I still so often am, into a mature woman, whose eyes are looking, not to a mirror that tells me what I look like but to a Savior who tells me who I am.