"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."
- Galatians 1:10
My two lifelong best friends are Emilys, too. Together, we are a force to be reckoned with. If we made a list, I would venture to say our differences outnumber our similarities, but that only sweetens our friendship. None of us bring the same thing to the table, but that's what keeps us longing to gather around the table again. God has blessed us with so many years of friendship, through so many unspeakable trials and incredible joys, that we have nothing left to pretend about. When we are together, we let it all hang out.
So, it's only appropriate that I chose an outing with the Emilys and our herd of collective children to (yikes - literally) let it all hang out for the first time in a seriously long time.
Freckles are basically the only pigment I have in my skin. If I hadn't had highlights for as long as I can remember, I might know how red my natural hair may be, but I honestly don't remember. I just know I definitely have the complexion of my fairest ginger friends. Sun leads to more freckles and pain for me, no matter how many times I've tried to convince myself *this* will be the year I tan a little. I just don't. Can't. Won't. (High school Emily could tell you how many visits to the tanning bed it took her to be as pale as friends started out being.)
But! This week, I wore SHORTS. We took eleven children to an amusement park and while I was choosing my clothes to wear, it just sort of hit me. "I don't want to spend this day any more irritable than I have to be. It's hot and I want to be comfortable. It's my kids and my Emilys and an amusement park, for crying out loud. Why not?!" So, shorts and a t-shirt it was. And you know what? We had SO MUCH FUN. My teenage daughters (who, God love them, are as pale as Mom) weren't sure what to think about a mom with legs, but something about the grins on their faces said it all.
I am not really sure when in my adult life I decided sweating in jeans in July was more pleasant than being comfortably me, but I wish I never had.
This is so silly, I know, but that is my whole point.
Do we even know how silly we are when we are trying to hide who God made us to be? How miserable have we become along the way without even realizing it? How much of our bitterness is self-inflicted? The ongoing dialogue in our minds that tells us we aren't enough right where we are, in the pants size we wear today, with the blemishes we have right now, with the gray hairs shining through... whose voice is that anyway?
Not my Maker's.
Not yours either.
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works: my soul knows it very well."
- Psalm 139:13-14
One thing about being a mom of many is that I get a glimpse of what it is like to be the parent of many unique personalities and little bodies. Some of my kids have straight hair, one has curly hair, some have blue eyes, some green, one brown. Some are shorter than the other kids in their class and one stands much taller. Some wouldn't sing if I paid them to and others belt out musicals like it's their job. Some love to draw and others would really rather not. Some love sports and others beg me to never make them try another one. Basically, the only thing they all have in common is that they belong to their daddy and me and they love Jesus.
If I as a flawed mom can see the intrinsic value, amazingly unique gifts, and incredible beauty in each of my individual children and will die cheering them on to use those very things - and no one else's - for God's glory, how much more is God Himself longing for us to embrace who He made us to be?? I had no control over how any of my children would be formed. (Ahem. Can I get an "Amen" on that??) Yet I adore them and see glimpses of God's purpose and power in them each.
How it must grieve the heart of the Father to see us being so hard on ourselves, selling ourselves short by trying to be carbon copies of our brothers and sisters.
I always take the long road home - that's just the kind of girl I am - so it makes sense that it's taken me exactly thirty-five years to begin to get a clue on this front. I sat at my grandmother's bedside in the last days of her life a few years ago and really studied her features for the first time. My fingers look so much like hers. So do my lanky legs and big feet. My round face, too. I adored everything about that woman and seeing similarities between my features and hers made me appreciate mine more than I think I had before. I love see parts of her live on in me.
How much more do I long to see parts of Him living vibrantly in me?
My body produced five living, breathing humans over the course of twelve years. I spent more than four years total nursing those babies. What's more beautiful or miraculous than that? In the throes of motherhood, my needs have been pushed to the wayside and I'm sure my teeth and skin reflect that. I know my waistline does. My face is not all that symmetrical and it can't decide whether it wants to have acne or wrinkles more, so it somedays, it bears both. I have big eyes, a bigger head, and hair that closely resembles a lion's mane in Kentucky Summer humidity. But that woman in the mirror? I'm learning to love her because I am so in love with her Maker.
"Woe to the one who argues with his Maker - one clay pot among many. Does clay say to the one forming it, 'What are you making?' Or does your work say, 'He has no hands'?
"I made the earth and created humans on it. It was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded everything in them."
Isaiah 45:9, 12
I may not understand God's purposes behind his Creation, but I can trust Him and embrace them, knowing our God is a God is of precision and care. He makes no mistakes. If He knows the number of hairs on my head, surely He knows why my head looks the way it does. I'd go so far as to presume He thinks it's beautiful in its own way if the way I study features while I watch my babies sleep has taught me anything. If the Lords holds every tear that falls, surely He is well acquainted with the cries of my heart. If He has given me a burden that nobody but God Himself can lift, perhaps I am to trust Him with it. If there's a fire in my bones, maybe He's the one who ignited it and I can trust Him with its heat after all. Where my gifting meets the needs of the world, maybe there's glory waiting to shine through because it's all grace and He's been the Giver all along.
"Having gifts that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy with cheerfulness."
- Romans 12:6-8
None of us bring the same thing to the table, but that's what keeps us longing to gather around the table again. And one fine Day, our Lord is going to meet us there and tell us what all these flaws were all about. Until then, let us set aside our misery and self-imposed limitations, let it all hang out, "be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 5:1)
And maybe, just maybe, we will have SO MUCH FUN when do.