I have some really godly aspirations in life. Raise children that passionately love and serve the Lord. Have a home characterized by peace and joy. Selflessly serve my husband. Go wherever God calls. Respond to whatever comes my way with faith and hope.
I have some other “bucket list” items that are fine, but maybe not as holy in nature.
Run a marathon. Have a show-stopping kitchen. Write a book. Take up rock-climbing.
One of my unspoken goals is to be a timeless beauty, someone like Audrey Hepburn. Now I know I’m not in the same category as the lovely Ms. Hepburn, yet I am inspired by the grace and class with which she carried herself. If I am shopping for a special event, I try to chose a timeless dress instead of embracing the latest trend. I know beauty is fleeting, but I also know God put an appreciation in all of us for lovely things. I really want to be one of them!
When I had my first episode of skin cancer, I thought, “That’s okay! I’ll start wearing a big classy hat like Audrey!” Then I had another one.. and another… and another… and my desire to be beautiful and lovely seemed to be a ticking time bomb. Despite years of being very careful in the sun and wearing my huge hat, I keep having this battle, almost always on my face. The surgeon suggested I use a cream for six weeks every couple years to destroy some of the damage. I could not have guessed how horrendous I would look… or the pain it would inflict. Think “leprous clown.” (Sorry for the mental picture… I promise I have a point coming.) I am believing this will produce some lasting benefits, but I’ve been thinking, “It’s a good thing I got married at 25, because boy am I going downhill!” I have been shocked and humbled, however, to receive a sweet gift from my husband.
Travis and I have been married for seven years now. At the beginning of our marriage there were many “training sessions” about my love language being words of affirmation. Now he compliments me frequently, but not too much lest the words lose their effect. This summer, Travis has repeatedly looked me in the eyes and told me I am beautiful. At first I brushed it off, thinking how sweet--yet insane--his words were. Then I wanted to argue with him, but I didn’t want to discourage him for being kind. After weeks of this, I have realized he really means it. When I look in the mirror I see something disgusting. When he sees me, he sees healing that will help me stay by his side longer. Like Mary of Bethany pouring her perfume on Jesus’ feet, I have been surrendering my heart’s desire to be lovely to God’s control. And just as Mary’s gift to Jesus brought her more than a monetary gift ever could, I know God is blessing me with the honest devotion of a man and the purifying of my heart. Both are worth more than a scarless face.
Now I am sure most of you can’t relate to my particular experience, but I bet there has been something that has made you feel disgusting in front of your husband. Perhaps it’s the symptoms of pregnancy, the delivery itself, and the aftermath on your figure. Maybe you’ve wanted to run and hide; yet he just wants to look at you and hold you close. Maybe you wish it was baby weight you were struggling with, yet years after having babies you are realizing you are never going to look like you did in that wedding dress. Maybe your hair has thinned and grayed and just won’t ever frame your face how it used to. Maybe other illnesses have taken their toll on you. I don’t know your struggle, but I know aging is not the easiest process for us ladies to embrace.
I used to watch movies of men giving toasts to their wives at their 40 or 50th anniversary parties. The speeches vary, but they inevitably include, “She is more beautiful today than the day I married her.” I thought these were very sweet sentiments… but I believed they were more inspired by a man well trained in avoiding trouble with his wife than a statement founded in true adoration for beauty. Now I know I am wrong. I know because my husband doesn’t lie to me. He is an honest man. Gone is the somewhat naive, youthful girl he married. Instead he sees a woman tested by trials and striving to come out better. He sees the beauty a faithful, sanctifying God has produced in my heart rather than the scars that cover my face. He sees a woman whose body has helped grow and develop three precious sons he loves. He doesn’t see perfection; he sees strength.
So, my sister, I don’t know your husband, just like I don’t know those men in the movies. But I know if my husband can honestly see past my dramatic physical shortcomings, then yours can too.
It seems too good to be true. It doesn’t seem possible. And yet research has told us for years that married people are happier. The acceptance and unconditional love we receive in marriage creates a safe shelter from the pain of this world. Most importantly, it provides a reflection of our Savior’s love for us. God knows and loves you. He is the God who sees. No part of you is hidden from Him. He dances over you. He delights in you.
Do you believe this?
If not, you need to start there. Choose to believe the truth of God’s Word. His love is more powerful than your flaws. His forgiveness is greater than your sins. He truly does separate your sins from you as far as the east is from the west.
Now, if we can believe that a perfect God looks past our shortcomings, why do we struggle to believe our husbands could possess a portion of that love for us? God wants our marriages to be successful! It makes perfect sense that He would impart His perfect love into our husbands!
What do we do with this acknowledgement? Many of us have been blessed with the great love of a godly man. There is a right way to reciprocate. First, we need to believe him. If you constantly roll your eyes when he says you are gorgeous, he will stop telling you. Next, let him admire you. Don’t run and hide. Let him enjoy the wife of his youth. Believe he chose you and make him glad he did! There is a reason King Lemuel’s mother taught him the acrostic poem about a woman worthy of his heart.
Proverbs 31: 30, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."
Your husband already knows this. Do you?
(I am fully aware that I am blessed. I know many women reading this do not have a husband as affirming as mine is. I am sorry. I promise Travis has shortcomings, just as I do, but this has become a strength for him. I believe that even if your husband doesn’t tell you these things, he believes them. All I can do is encourage you to pray for him to become more expressive with his love. Please move forward with your head held high knowing that God Almighty sees beauty when He looks at you.)