In The Eye of the Beholder

MakeupOn Sunday I posted the video of the song “Beautiful” by MercyMe, along with the story of when I first heard the song. But I felt just that wasn’t enough. Because there was more to the story than hearing a song one day and crying because of the words.

Tears are a little bit of mystery, and when we notice them — in ourselves or others — we should take notice, because they’re telling a secret about something deep in our heart. Maybe so deep we don’t even realize it’s there.

So here’s a little bit of that heart … and why the song that stated, “You’re Beautiful” meant so much to me.

What is “beautiful”? Synonyms are: lovely, attractive, good-looking, gorgeous, stunning, striking, fine-looking, and handsome. Who wouldn’t want to be called beautiful? To have all those synonyms used to describe them?

I know I always wanted to hear someone tell that to me. But when I was growing up, it never happened — except by relatives, and IMHO that didn’t count. I think that only once throughout my childhood and teenage years was I called beautiful by someone who wasn’t a direct relation. It was from my sister’s boyfriend, who told me, “You know, you really could be beautiful if you stood up straight.” Okay, so he wasn’t calling me beautiful, but it was close enough for me. Since it occurred so seldom (a.k.a never), I’d take what I could get.

I always felt awkward among Spanish-speaking people. When I told them my name, they would usually smile and ask, “You know what that means?” I’d often say something like, “Yeah, maybe I was cute when I was born or something.”

A conversation between me and a couple acquaintances when I was 12 pretty much summed up the whole “beautiful” situation for me. I had a friend named Angel and she was what many would consider beautiful: wavy, strawberry-blonde hair, light green eyes, winning smile. A few of us were together one afternoon and I got everyone something to eat or drink (can’t even remember). “You’re an angel,” one of them said to me.

Someone else said, “You and Angel should switch names, because you’re so sweet and she’s …” he stopped mid-sentence. There was an awkward silence. No one finished the sentence for him, but I think we all understood the intent. She was the beautiful one. I was “sweet” but definitely not pretty. At that time, I really wished my parents had given me a different name.

When I was 17 and had started to figure out the whole makeup thing, I met up with a friend of my family, whom I had known since I was ten. He took one look at me and said, “Not bad.” He held up his hands as imaginary scales; one hand was way lower than the other. “Still nowhere near your sisters, but getting there.” I smiled, and swallowed hard, pretending not to care, but his comment hurt.

I came to the obvious conclusion that I wasn’t beautiful, and I never would be. Oh, of course I had heard those quotes like, “Beauty is only skin deep” and “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, if no “beholder” around “beheld” me as beautiful, that didn’t really help much, did it?

And in regards to beauty being only skin deep, that’s inaccurate as well, but it took me a long time to figure out what true beauty is, and why it matters more than the “skin deep” form.

Years passed. I met someone who loved me and thought I was beautiful. We got married and more years passed. It took many of those years for me to finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Somehow becoming a mother and realizing a part of me is in my amazing children helped me understand a little more about my own worth.

But at the same time, there was a little girl inside who felt unlovely. Not good enough. The little girl who defined herself with labels like “four-eyes” and “chicken legs” and “flat chest,” but never “beautiful.” The little girl who still tears up at writing these words. I think that was the little girl who began to cry when hearing the song, the words that claimed,
“You’re Beautiful.”

I think there’s something of that person hidden away in all of us. Hoping for recognition. A sense of worth. To know that we are loved. To know that someone thinks we’re beautiful.

You are.

You’re Beautiful.

You’re treasured. You’re sacred. Your heart is known, understood, and cherished.

You were made for so much more than what you see and know and understand right now.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in God’s eyes, you are beautiful. And so am I.

And the end of the story? I’ve become reconciled to my name, and finally realized it wasn’t a misnomer. No, not because I’m beautiful, but because, like a dear friend recently told me, I’m God’s Beautiful Jewel.

And so are you.

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