He tells me I’m beautiful. Whispers it to me as we snuggle on the couch, smooths back my hair. I look down. Fourteen years and I still doubt these words. Maybe doubt them more now than ever. I don’t see it. What he says he still sees. What he pleads with me to understand and accept.
There is a comfort now. An intimacy born out of long years filled with sorrows etched deep, joy brimming, and oh, so much forgiveness. We are a match. A union forged through the fire. I know that deep down. I know his commitment to me and his steady faithfulness even when I’ve been fickle. And truthfully, it’s not his love that I doubt, but my worth to be the loved.
I know that this is not who I really am. I am shocked when I see pictures of myself and I think, “How did that happen? How did I let it come to this?” My insides don’t match my outsides. I look like I have been swallowed whole by this fat suit. And I am never as aware as when we are a couple.
When we are out as a family, kids in tow, running errands or out to dinner, my focus is on my children. We fit because we aren’t functioning as man and wife, romantically, intimately. We are functioning as a unit, a family. We aren’t solely man and woman. We are mom and dad.
But when there are candles lit, music playing softly in the background, couples with heads bent across tables and lingering glances, I recoil. Date night has dwindled over the years. I am ashamed to say it is my insecurity alone that has caused me to prefer an evening in pj’s by the fire or snuggling on the couch to a night out. And that would be fine if that’s all it was, a preference. I’ve always been more laid back and fancy dinners seem like a lot of work and money wasted. With finances being tight and 3 children, we have spent more and more time this way. I have excused this behavior for all of these reasons, and as a natural introvert, it seems feasible.
But I also know that this feeling extends to social events, gatherings, and outings where we would attend as a couple. It has hindered my ability to joyfully accompany my husband and I’ve deprived him of my presence so many times because I am just not emotionally up for it.
I have felt the judgmental looks, the questioning glances. “What is he doing with her?” I’m ashamed to say I’ve thought it before of others. It’s not as rare to see a beautiful woman with a less attractive man, in fact I would say it is fairly common. But in our society, it is much rarer to see a handsome man with an overweight or less attractive woman. There is a natural questioning that seems to happen. “How did that happen? Did he marry her fat or did she gain weight after? I wonder what he saw in her.” I know some people will say that it is solely my insecurity talking and people don’t really think that way but I assure you many do. Because here is the truth of the matter. We do judge, at least initially, by the outside appearance.
I cannot say often enough how much I consider beauty a powerful and advantageous quality. Socrates called it “A short tyranny,” and Plato,’~The privilege of nature.” We have no quality that surpasses it in credit. It holds the first place in human relations; it presents itself before the rest, seduces and prepossesses our judgment with great authority and a wondrous impression.
And what is it all really but vanity? Even writing these words, it all seems so silly. Yet there it is, my heart.
I am less of a wife, not because of my appearance, but because I am so totally consumed by myself. My own selfishness and constant insecurity is like a plague. At times, mastered but never defeated. Silly and ridiculous but nevertheless present.
I don’t have a pithy anecdote or a simple answer to this dilemma of self. I am a work in progress.
It’s always so much easier to write from a place of accomplishment. To plant our victory flag and speak of the things we have conquered, mastered, and can now impart our wisdom to the masses. It is infinitely harder to blog from the trenches. To crouch down and hope to avoid the weapons still being blasted at you. To admit your fear that this war will never cease-fire, that this battle will rage on and you will be forever cowering.
I don’t know yet how God will work in these places. I do know that I am willing to let Him and that confessing my heart is the only way to allow Him in. Maybe I’ll start by accepting Josh’s compliment. By saying “Thank you” when he offers those words, “You are beautiful,” and praying that someday God will heal me to believe it. To truly be the beloved.
How do you accept compliments? Do you accept them when they are based on things you accomplish more than how you look? How has God shown you that you are beautiful? I’d love to hear how God is working in your life. I always love to get comments and see how you are doing with these areas of your lives.