Joy and Sarah, my beloved cherished friends and daughters.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2: 8-9
How do we model the love of God to our children? To our lost friends? To the world?
Learning to accept God's generous love, is not just a personal issue for ourselves, but it is a crucial part of how we show God's grace to a world of women around us who long to be loved and accepted for who they are.
Everyone we know is longing for acceptance and validation. Yet, unless we as Christian women model this to those closest to us, they will miss seeing the unconditional love of God He wants to show through our lives.
I have been blessed with two lovely daughters. Yesterday, I had conversations with both of them--Sarah by skype and Joy sitting next to me in our living room last night--sharing hearts, insecurities, failures, flaws and love and redemption. My girls are living in a culture in which bodies and looks, intelligence, clothing, personality and behavior are marketed in such a way as to promote the message that there is a certain kind of body, way of dressing, a size or weight or body type and when any one of us measures up to this false worldly standard of perfection, we will all fall short.
Now, as to looks, some are too skinny, too tall, too short, some too overweight, some have big chests, some small.
As to personality, some are charming, some are not, all personalities are flawed in some way because all are subject to this disease called sin.
Some smarter, better, and on and on the world tempts us to think we can be enough if we just try hard enough.
But all of these arbitrary standards plague women every day. Even I, as a 60 year old fight, insecurity every year as I have to stand in front of hundreds of women at conferences, with more weight than I would wish, or more wrinkles or the kinds of clothes I should wear--I am a normal women who can be caught in the grips of cultures' temptations by seeking measure myself by some arbitrary standard that God never established.
Why in the world would even a woman like me, aging as I am supposed to, ever compare myself with the standards of a young, thin model of a woman who represents universal beauty? Because of the messages of the world being screamed in every movie, every show, every billboard, every advertisement. If it plagues even me and I am a relatively reasonable woman, and have walked with God for many years. I know it plagues my beloved daughters, and you and your daughters.
And so I have come to understand that an important part of my testimony to others, is that I am enough--just as I am.
It is God's grace every day that saves me, restores me, makes me beautiful. Not perfection or performance.
I do not want my girls to have to believe the lies of the world, I want them to grow beautiful inside because they learn to love who God has made them to be. I do not want my daughters to bear such a legacy of self-condemnation as the world would give.
They will only learn to accept their worth to the Lord if I accept my worth from the Lord.
The whole point of Christianity and redemption is that we are saved from all of our personal corruption. As women, we are beautiful because God designed us very intentionally with our personality, our skill set, our dreams and drives. He also designed us with a specific face and body and height and weight--All are beautiful when they live in the love and confidence of God's affirmation. As to personality, they are extremely different and make different choices in life because God gave them different gifts.
It is the grace and glory of God that we find freedom and joy and the life to live apart from the condemnation and criticism of this world. Then we are able to grow in our acceptance of His love. His desire for us as women is to greatly experience the "Life" of His reality of acceptance every day, because of how much He sacrificed so that we might live.
Yet,when it comes to my daughters, I want them also to understand, that they are beautiful because both are beloved by their Jesus and by me. They are both righteous because Jesus knew they would never ever be able to be perfect or good enough on their own, and so he lived and died for them so that they would never have to feel so deeply disappointed in themselves.They will always have hope and deep acceptance when they walk with His hand in theirs leading and loving and blessing them moment by moment--if they have first seen it in me.
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. I Peter 4:3-3
It is the hidden person of my heart, the tenderness and humility before Jesus that makes me beautiful to Him and that will make you beautiful to Him. When your heart seeks to love Him, to please Him, to rest in His love and care for you, that is your preciousness in the sight of God.
When I model this inner heart, my daughters will understand that it is their heart--not their body, their performance or their perfection that will help them to find His love.
As their mother, I hope I will make choices that lead them in this freedom and grace. They need to see me model that I feel accepted by God's love, that my beauty if from my heart, so that they will hear a different message from me than they see in the world. When I make peace with who I am, warts and all, I speak boldly of His ability to fill up all the cracks of my life. Then they learn how to live in the freedom of His love and acceptance.
And so, I want to give them this Jesus who saved me, and who grants me His grace every day--His grace, His unmerited favor, His power to live life, His faithfulness to direct, correct and mature them little by little and His favor and unconditional love, which will never fail them. My daughters, friends, colleagues will better understand their adequacy that comes from Jesus when they see it for real in my life.
And I want to live in such a way that they will always know that they, too, can be found acceptable and beautiful in His arena of blessing.
I want my precious daughters to live in the secure ring of our own family love, grace and acceptance and to have the freedom and grace in their hearts to know that who they are, as they are is quite enough and even lovely because of the grace of God so very reflective in and through each moment of their lives.
May He bless my precious girls, and me, and each of us to so live in this true feminine beauty of His love and acceptance that we never need dwell in the insecurity of not ever being able to be perfect or measure up to the arbitrary standards of this world. May His grace truly invigorate and fuel the moments of our lives each day and may others see what is really beautiful as we reflect His reality every day.
Let us break the mold of the world and show a new acceptance--one that comes from God's grace, not as a result of anything we have done to deserve it, but acceptance that comes as a gift from God.