My first guest blog! This piece was posted on Elisa Morgan's website yesterday.
"You are BEAUTY FULL!" a dear friend responded to the picture I had sent.
I smiled to myself as I read her kind words. But even as gratitude caused my heart to swell, questions of doubt pierced it. BEAUTY FULL? Really? Me? Were we looking at the same picture?
I even went back to my "Sent" folder to confirm that I had attached the correct picture. I'm not sure what I expected when the file opened, but my heart sank when I saw the same face I see everyday in the mirror staring back at me.
Confirmed. Correct picture. Like the lips of the princess on the frog, I subconsciously hoped that the double click of my finger on the mouse had transformed me, as well. No such luck. Still just me.
Even on closer inspection, I didn’t see what she saw. Part of me wanted to thank her for her kind response, and part of me, with a pang of deep and utter sadness, wanted to say, “No. You’re wrong. There’s nothing about this face that is beautiful.” I felt compelled to point out to her every imperfection, every flaw. Did she not see the unevenness of my eyes, the lopsidedness of my nose and of my smile, the divot in my forehead, the scar that runs under my eye and down the side of my nose…
Was she just being nice? Or did she see something I didn’t? Something I couldn’t?
Or, maybe the real problem isn’t what I don’t see, it’s that I see so much more.
I don’t just see the moment in time captured in the photograph. I see what I used to look like and how much that has changed. I see how many tears those eyes have cried and what is beneath that “say cheese” smile. I hear comments playing in the back of my memory from kids, strangers, and doctors: “Why does your eye look like that?” “What’s wrong with your face?” “There’s been another complication and we have to operate again.” I know what cancer has done to my face and I don’t see BEAUTY FULL when I look at me.
But how do I move from avoiding my image in pictures and in the mirror to embodying BEAUTY FULL? Must I forget the years and the memories that live behind my face?
“No,” I hear God tenderly chuckle. “I want you to learn through your memories, not carry the weight of them. Embrace all you’ve been through because it broke you open and allowed Me in. You see yourself--your scars, the asymmetry, your (as you call them) “imperfections”--through a cracked and clouded lens. Come close, sit next to me, see yourself through My eyes. My daughter, behold your beauty. You can’t hate what I have created and fully love Me. Honor Me by honoring this magnificent vessel that I so carefully and lovingly crafted just for you.”
Wow. I’m off to look at that picture again.
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Nicole Mills is an oncology nurse, cancer survivor, nerd, and contemplative. She has a secret desire to be a nun or a double-dutch jump rope champion. Not being Catholic or able to jump 2 ropes poses significant hurdles, but she remains hopeful.