Looking in the mirror, I could feel the disgust bubbling up again. I had been able to look past the red spots dotting my face for a couple days because they seemed to be lessening. At least my neck had escaped the weekend without a pesky breakout. But, as I examined my freshly showered face, I couldn’t stop the frown from forming at the little bumps covering my skin — all over, or so it felt. My thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone either: “I’m twenty-six, this shouldn’t be happening to someone my age, right? Especially someone who never struggled with acne as a teen…”
I should never have stood there, leaned into that mirror, pulling and poking at my skin. I knew from experience that would lead nowhere good, honorable, right, pure, or lovely (Philippians 4:8). I felt the familiar disgust and self-loathing start worming its way into every crevice of my mind.
“I bet that’s all people see when they look at me.”
“Tim can’t even touch my cheek without feeling stupid little bumps.”
“Why can’t I have porcelain doll skin like her?”
Now thoroughly bummed out and wanting to cry, I dabbed some powder on the breakout to at least lessen their impact and walk out the door, self-conscious.
Though my quarter-life acne has only been plaguing me the past few months, this type self-abasing mindset has been a struggle for years. Whether it was my weight, my romantic status, or darkening blonde hair, I’ve allowed myself to be sucked into the cycle of comparison and misplaced self-worth since junior high. It’s taken me countless struggles to realize my problem wasn’t low self-esteem, but pride and poor priorities.
My value was so intertwined with my appearance and abilities, I was devastated when those things didn’t live up to my ridiculously high standards. My perfectionism had swallowed up any possibility of me having a healthy view of myself. Not to mention, I began to believe it was my right to live up to an ideal shaped more by the world than God. And that’s where pride took hold and wouldn’t let go, what brought me in front of my mirror bemoaning the onslaught of acne dotting my face.
Sadly, it took me several months of staring into the mirror, being disgusted at what I saw, to realize how much my pride was wrapped up in my frustration and feelings. I tried pity and the martyr route to legitimize my ungodly attitude. I had even tried to couch it under the auspices of concern for my skin health — maybe I developed a late-in-life allergy.
Though I don’t think God struck me with a zit plague, I can’t ignore the fact that God has a way of teaching through object lessons. It was more than a coincidence that my devotional time had been centered around the life of Joseph — a most humble man and leader. In truly undesirable and desolate circumstances, Joseph remained surrendered to God’s plan. He prayed for strength and wisdom to endure his situation instead of a means to remove himself from his situation. Joseph realized God was far greater than any sibling rivalry, any woman, and any prison.
After months of fighting with God about my face, I began to realize that He is bigger than my appearance. A perfect complexion should not be the foundation of my value. God doesn’t promise perfection, He promises unconditional love and eternal meaning for our lives. I had been eagerly bemoaning God’s inactivity in delivering me from my undesirable circumstances instead of allowing God to use me, imperfections and all, for His glory.
Now, whenever I peer too intently into a mirror, I am reminded of what really matters — a face (and heart) washed white as snow, radiating with the love of the source of true value.
Photo Credit: Jenni Marie Photography