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Recently IMG_4067a girlfriend made an off the cuff statement that just won’t leave my mind. We were talking about our husbands and she said that her husband had hugged her that morning and said, “I just love you so much.” She replied, “there is no way you can love someone this fat.” We all giggled and nodded our understanding. But quite honestly, I felt a pain rush through me unlike anything I have felt in a long while.

I stewed on it for a while. What was it about that statement that was making me uncomfortable. I could completely relate to her statement because I’ve said the very same thing to my husband. And honestly believed it.

The past couple of nights I’ve actually had tossed and turned a bit because I kept thinking about it. I mean, it’s not like many of us don’t think it. Wait. That’s it. We think it but don’t usually say it. We equate our physical appearance – our IMperfections with the worthiness of love.

There is not a single day that I go through where I am not constantly reminded that thinner is better. Or that more youthful skin is the key to happiness. Facebook is over run with weight loss programs, younger skin treatments, before and after pictures and “thinspiration.” Television ads for national weight loss programs are on at least once an hour, if not more. Magazines show airbrushed pictures, the newest night creams, and the latest weight loss fad. And none of those things even begin to touch the intimate conversations between friends about our consistent weight struggles or fears of growing older. Now before folks get upset with me, let me clarify right now that I am not against healthy living. I do believe 1 Corinthians 6:19 – it states that the body is a temple in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Verse 20 goes on to say, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” For that reason, I believe it is our obligation to take care of the body which we have been given by God. So for anyone reading this who is currently living a healthy lifestyle, I applaud you for the hard work as long as that work is not because of self-loathing and a desire to be loved.

My point is that we have allowed ourselves to measure our worth on the number of the scale reading. That’s what hurts me. I am so ashamed that I have said to my husband that he can’t possibly love me because of my outward appearance. The truth is, I don’t fully love me because of my outward appearance so I place that “truth” on him and…ultimately, on my heavenly Father.

As a minister, I preach on God’s love every week in one form or another. I encourage others to look beyond themselves and their brokenness in order to see a perfect love that has been offered to them through Jesus Christ. I speak on redemption and grace. I offer scripture after scripture proving the love that is so abundantly available to them. And yet, I carry this dark secret that says none of that applies to me.

Yesterday, a precious young girl gave our scripture reading. She is beautiful in every way. I thought of Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for a I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And when I looked I her, I just wanted to protect her from all the junk of society. I want her to always feel free and beautiful, not because of a societal definition but because she is made in His image!

A couple of years ago I read a book called God Loves Ugly. It’s a powerful book by Christa Black. She writes about her struggles with physical acceptance and how it overshadowed any possibility of spiritual acceptance. We are just so tied to this idea of physical appearance equates to lovability. But not God. 1 Samuel 16:7b “God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

You see the depths of my heart and love me anyway.

We work so hard with loving others through kindness, support, grace, forgiveness. But we work equally as hard at not loving ourselves. We chastise our friends when they put themselves down but we put on a badge of honor at disrespecting ourselves. What we are actually doing is telling God, “you must have gotten it all wrong when you created me.” In no scenario is that true and yet we accept that “truth” every single day.

I often think about how God sees me. Obviously, according to 1 Samuel, He does not see me in the way I see me. How much does it hurt Him when I say things that are hurtful about me? Or when you say things that are hurtful about you? He focuses on my heart not on my hair style or my waist circumference. While we can pick out the things about us that we are not – “I’m not thin enough. I’m not tall enough. I’m not petite enough. I’m not cute enough. I’m not __________ enough. I’m not perfect.” God sees what I am – “I am a child of God. I am made in His image. I am loved so much that He gave His only son for me. I’m perfect.”

I have dedicated my life to serving God through serving others. He has called me to speak His truth to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Mark 12:29-31 says it like this: Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love your neighbor as yourself. Ouch.

I cannot possibly fulfill my calling to love others if I do not love myself. Just realizing the full impact of my failure takes my very breath away. Forgive me, O Lord, for not seeing your image rather than my own. Forgive me for seeing myself as imperfect rather than saying I’m perfect.

My new truth comes from the International Children’s Bible version of Psalm 139:14 – “I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well.”