When I first began playing rugby last fall, I could feel a part of my heart awakening for the first time in years.
Being an athlete was a part of my identity for most of my life, and there was something sweet about reigniting my love for the game.
The funny thing is, it also reignited another flame that I've tried to let die: my vanity.
And as a 23-year-old woman, this is one of the biggest struggles of my life.
I remember growing up as a greasy-haired ugly duckling and not giving a second thought to how I looked.
I remember having strangers shamelessly comment on my appearance and guess my ethnicity (that still happens.)
I remember hitting puberty and men thinking I was much older and being shocked when they found out I was only 13.
I remember the hand of my father grabbing my arm to pull me aside to remind me that I should NOT be wearing that outfit in public because I was embarrassing him and shaming myself.
I remember the high school locker room where girls commented on my abs and legs because all those years of sports added up and I had more muscle than fat on my body.
I remember all the contradicting praise and shame and having no idea how to sort it in my own heart.
I remember becoming a women and buying larger pants.
The muscle sinking away and replacing itself with soft curves and cellulite.
That was right around the time Pinterest exploded and "Secrets of How to get Perfect Abs" and "20 Minute Workout for a Toned Butt" was being pinned by everyone.
I remember bikini pictures and post-workout selfies flooding my social media.
And I remember thinking, "I used to have a perfect body: abs like those pictures and the legs of a runner. But now, I have the body of a receptionist who used to workout."
Fast-forward 5ish years, and here's current me who finally learned how to eat healthy portions and discipline myself enough to at least jog every once in a while. My body and the way I view myself has had its ups and downs as I learn to love my own frame.
And coincidently, right as rugby season officially began, an acquaintance of mine challenged me to do the Whole30 with her. So, my first 30 days of an intense sport was paired with the healthiest food I've eaten.
And all of a sudden, I looked in the mirror and saw my high school body again.
It made me feel Pinterest worthy. Something inside me felt as if this was my chance to show the world that I'm not a blob.
But then I remember when I didn't look this way.
I remember how I gain a little weight every winter.
I remember that one day I will look older and my youth won't be able to fuel my self-esteem.
I remember that this same body whose muscles have torn to get toned will tear one day to bring a baby from womb to arms.
But will I call my body beautiful then?
And I try to remember what God has told me about how He sees me.
"Yet LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay,
and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands. "
And as I prayed into this verse one day, the Holy Spirit brought this image to mind: loving hands were working on a piece of clay, spinning it on a wheel. It was shaped like a round vase. And then God spoke into my heart, "I have loved your every curve because they are the work of My hands."
For the past few months, every once in a while, different people will come up to me and say, "You are so beautiful."
And I have desperately wanted to say, "Please, please, PLEASE do not tell me that." I'm on a constant teeter totter of vanity and insecurity, and someone complimenting my appearance doesn't seem to help anything. I've spent too many years feeding off of what others think of me.
But a couple weeks ago, someone came up to me and said it a little differently:
"I felt like God wanted me to tell you two things: He's planted hope in your heart, and He is the One who calls you beautiful."
And for some reason, I couldn't stop crying.
Later that morning, I took some time to listen and write out what I felt God tell me:
"Jeana, one day, you will be old.
And I will gaze at the lines etched on your face,
the breasts that have nourished your beloved children,
and the calloused feet that have walked many miles into My Kingdom.
I will look at you like I do now, and I will say,
'She is beautiful. She is mine. I love her.'
It's important for you to know how I see you.
Viewing yourself from My perspective is the cure for both vanity and insecurity.
I say that you are beautiful
—and it is true because I see you for who you really are."
Measuring my worth in my appearance and encouraging others to see me as beautiful has left me both hungry for affirmation and terrified to look at my own reflection.
But our bodies go through different seasons and shapes, and I’m learning the importance of loving it through all its changes.
I'm learning that life-changing, nourishing beauty is not going to be found in an Instagram-worthy body or chasing an appearance that this world labels "beautiful".
Real beauty will come from the reflection we see when we look into the eyes of our Creator who says that He loves our every curve because we are the work of His hands.
Abs, rolls, wrinkles, stretch marks, thick and thin and all.
After all, your Heavenly Father is the one who calls you beautiful —
—and it is true because He sees you for who you really are.
Thank you for reading! I wrote these words for you, and I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
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