I just finished reading the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio and let me tell you it was AMAZING! The book just showed up on the suggested books page of my library app and it looked good so I checked it out. And then God spoke to me throughout the entire thing! I laughed, I cried, I felt ashamed, I felt validated, and it all revolved around physical appearance.
The main character, Auggie, is a fifth grader who is starting school for the first time (outside of home school). Auggie has a cranial-facial abnormality that caused his face to be severely deformed. Auggie spends a lot of time wishing he had a different face, and as I got to know Auggie as a character, this desire broke my heart. I don’t want to say too much, because I want you to read this book yourself. I want you to fall in love with Auggie for yourself, not out of pity but out of genuine love for who he is as a character.
Auggie used to wear a space helmet everywhere he went to keep people from gasping at the sight of his face. He felt it was so much better for them to think he was weird for wearing a helmet that covered his face than to look at him in fear because of his face. But what Auggie’s father said to him one day, got me thinking about how God thinks about me:
“’Come on, Auggie, please try to understand,’ he continued, putting his hand under my chin and tilting my face toward him. “You were wearing that helmet all the time. And the real, real, real, real truth is: I missed seeing your face, Auggie. I know you don’t always love it, but you have to understand…I love it. I love this face of yours, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it kind of broke my heart that you were always covering it up.’”
What do I cover up that God loves about me? I’m always making excuses for my weight. As if I have to justify myself to others or even protect others from feeling embarrassed or ashamed for me. I know this isn’t the same. I know I don’t have a deformed face, and I know I’m not morbidly obese, but the fact of the matter is, I have become a victim of my body.
I’m still trying to sort this all out in my head. Because part of my weight problem is an over-indulgence issue and part of it is a refusal to accept what God has given me. Could the over-indulgence issue be a symptom of a refusal to accept myself? Just like how Auggie used his space helmet to cover the face he did not want?
In a weird way I think I use my weight and beauty as a way to protect myself from rejection. Stick with me here, I know it’s backwards, but here it is:
I’m scared of what others think of me. I’m scared they will reject the real me: the goofy, silly, clumsy, creative, dancing like a fool and making up songs about nothing, me. I’m scared they will reject the me that has absolutely nothing to do with my body size. Right now if someone rejects me I can blame it on my weight. I can just be like, “Oh I must not look like the right kind of friend” or “my husband doesn’t think I’m pretty because my t-shirt is too small and keeps riding up over the little tire of chub around my belly and it disgusts him.” Just to be clear, these are MY thoughts. I have NO IDEA what anyone else is thinking about me. They probably aren’t even thinking about me at all.
But with these thoughts, I am aware of “why” I’m being rejected. So then I can explain away rejection in my mind and I can apologize to others for my weight. People don’t have to go behind my back and be like, “yea, I’m not her friend because she is fat and ugly.” Because, I “know” it already. But this is not reality! I’ve been living in a false reality and I have absolutely no idea how to get out of it. It’s like, when I don’t let people dislike the real me, I also don’t let people like the real me. When I protect myself from hurt, I rob others from the gift of me.
And if you message me and say, “just accept who you are” or “Jesus loves you the way you are” or “it doesn’t matter what other people think”, you may be speaking truth but you’re wasting your time and mine. It’s not that easy. I’m not writing this in search of compliments, I’ve done that for years, it doesn’t work. I’m not writing this to hear about the latest diet you tried, or the workouts you do, I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work. I’m not trying to be a bitch here, I’m just being honest with you. It doesn’t work because no matter what I try, I’m still the one trying it! I’m the problem and I’m gonna tell you this right now, YOU CANNOT FIX ME. Only God can fix me. Only Jesus can fix me.
Does this brokenness of mine make you uncomfortable? Good. It’s reality. Reality isn’t comfortable. Jesus isn’t needed in comfortable. Please, let me be broken right now, because this is what is driving me towards the only one that can fix me.
I know this sounds harsh, but let me try to explain this in a different way. It’s like when I had a face full of zits back in middle school. I had no idea that the best thing for my face was simply a hot wash cloth to clean it and olive oil to moisturize. My mom had her own skin care regiment that worked for her and so I adopted it as well. Only, I didn’t realize that my skin was different than hers so instead of removing the pimples from my face, I managed to dry out my face and get more pimples! What the heck?
So a friend of mine said, “I know what to do! Here’s some cover-up.” And so I began using foundation and cover-up on my face to mask the zits and give the illusion that I had a clear face. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still use cover-up and foundation for the occasional zit when I’m going out someplace nice, but I don’t use it as a solution anymore. In middle school, cover-up was my daily solution to zits, but the reality was that the cover-up was clogging my pores even more and exacerbating the problem. The more cover-up I used, the more cover-up I needed. When cover-up was my solution I still had a big problem on my face. The cover-up may have given me the illusion of perfection at first, but after a while the bumpiness, redness, and puss of my face could be seen even through the cakiest of cover-up jobs. I had to let go of what I thought was the solution. I had to let go of the fear that my face may become more zitty before it got better. I had to give it time to get better and I had to stop covering up the problem even if that meant people would see my imperfection. So when my imperfect, zitty face made my friend uncomfortable once again and she said, “Hey, here’s some cover-up.”I knew in the long run it wouldn’t fix my problem, and it would actually make it worse, so I was able to resist. But if she were to put it on my face and I saw how it helped my appearance jut the tiniest bit, I know I would feel just a little bit better, and risk starting the cover-up process all over again.
I seek the affirmation and approval of others. Every time you tell me, “but you’re so beautiful” or “what are you talking about? You’re not fat!” or “Just accept yourself for who God created you to be!” It doesn’t actually help me. It covers my brokenness with a thin layer of cover-up. I leave thinking, “Oh, I’m not that bad…” But I’m done being “not that bad” I want to be “radiant!”
I’m done covering up. And I’m done covering-up other people’s imperfections too. I’m going to start searching for the REAL solution and I have a feeling it’s going to look very different from what I’ve been doing.