Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Free to be me

I've been thinking a lot about freedom, and what that really means.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,because the Lord has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim freedom for the captivesand release from darkness for the prisoners"
Isaiah 61:1

Jesus, as the savior, comes to set us free.

But what exactly does that really mean? How does it affect our lives?

I had the strangest epiphany a while back. While watching a random netflix movie I noticed the female lead literally towered over all the other women in the film. I was thinking, "She is really tall!" I was shocked when I got curious enough to look it up, and saw that the actress is shorter than me in real life. To be fair, she's only 1/2 an inch shorter than me, so we are basically the same height. I began thinking, "Is this how I look to other people?" The insecurity is rooted in old wounds from my teen years. I started shooting up at the age of 11 or 12, so I was towering over most the boys my age at that point, much less the girls. I also didn't have a lot of money, so I couldn't afford expensive clothes, and well, you guessed it, most of my pants were too short. It was pretty hurtful to be made fun of over something I couldn't control. So, I looked a little weird, do you really need to point that out? For middle and high school aged girls, the answer is yes. But that day, watching that netflix movie, something else stuck out to me about that actress. She wasn't hunching... she wasn't awkward about being so tall. She was wearing flipping heels, for crying out loud! She really didn't care that she was taller than everyone. You could say, yeah, she was acting, of course she seemed unbothered by it. But I have actually seen this girl interviewed, she just has this great, fun personality. She didn't seem awkward about herself at all. Just really comfortable in her own skin. So, it then stood out to me that yes, I eventually noticed she was really tall, but the biggest impression made on me was her personality, her beauty, her other great characteristics. She was also wearing clothes that any stylist will tell you will make you look taller, and had really long, straight hair. She obviously wasn't trying to draw attention away from how tall she is, but embracing it as part of who she is. It hit me, I don't need to feel weird about being tall -I should just embrace it! What's so bad about being different? The answer, my friends, is absolutely nothing.

That is the number one thing that feeds most insecurity. We compare ourselves to others, and think we should be like some cultural stereotype of beauty (or for men, strength/manliness/etc). Another thing I have always been insecure about is my smile. My teeth are pretty small in comparison to most people's. It doesn't help that recently a dentist told me I should consider veneers, and how they could really "improve" my "confidence". Ouch. To his defense, he was pretty nice about it and was just trying to make a sale. But ultimately for me it begged the question, "What's wrong with my teeth?" As a kid I always wanted braces, not that it would fix how small my teeth are, but they are also nowhere near perfect in other regards. Some are slightly askew, and my front teeth have a few small gaps between them. I always tried to smile without showing my teeth in pictures, and wished I had that perfect stereotypical Hollywood smile (probably the same reason I thought I needed a completely flat stomach, blue eyes, and tan skin.)

The funny thing is, in spite of that, I would never have considered veneers. I'm not judging other people, but I personally have this thing about being real. Now, don't get me wrong -if someone wants to dye their hair, or get piercings or tattoos to express their individuality -more power to them. I believe creativity is natural and can be expressed in many more ways than the stereotypical. Everyone is creative in some way, some people express it through hair, or makeup, or clothes. Some people with music or paintings or drawings. Some with all of the above. However, I am saddened by women changing their appearance not to express their creativity, but to meet a cultural standard or fit into a beauty stereotype. This is why I will probably never dye my hair blonde. Brown hair is just as beautiful as blonde hair, I was born with brown, I feel no need to change it. However, I do think it is fun to change shades, get highlights, etc. I have even gone red before. I've even had purple streaks. It's the motivation behind it that makes the difference for me. If I changed myself to be more beautiful, but what was "beautiful" was actually fake, am I really beautiful? It's sad to me how our culture pressures people into changing themselves. I would rather have my body, my small, imperfect teeth then some fake body, some fake smile. That's just me. I've always felt that way, even as a kid.

A few weeks before the netflix incident (I may or may not be addicted to watching movies...hmm....) I was watching Lord of the Rings with my husband and my mom and it really struck me how many members of the cast did not have perfect hollywood smiles. Me, of all people, to notice something like this. Aragorn, portrayed as a manly, attractive character, has small teeth with a few noticeable gaps, as does the main character Frodo, and more on point -both Éowyn and Galadriel (both are portrayed as beautiful princesses). It just hit me that the casting director obviously had no issue with portraying someone as beautiful, even when they didn't have "perfect" teeth. So, why should I struggle with that in my own life? I realized my teeth being different just makes me more unique, and gives my look more character. It's not some fake smile, it's real, it's genuine, and it's mine. That made me feel like something different, like my teeth, doesn't necessarily mean it's ugly or weird, it can be different but cute or beautiful. To be honest, my husband has tried to tell me this about my smile for years. The sad part about this story is, I'm pretty sure both of the women I mentioned have since had their teeth "fixed". If you see them now their teeth look pretty perfect. Trust me, I'm not crazy, go back and watch Lord of the Rings and look at their teeth.

The beauty of the gospel is that it frees me to be me. It doesn't ask me to change or fit into some stereotype. God celebrates my individuality. Don't believe me?

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:18-20

To be continued...

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