"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” Proverbs 31:25, 30
Several weeks ago, a dear friend of mine came to our house to take some family pictures. Honestly, when she first told me she wanted to do this for our family I wanted to say “no”. Why in the world would I want to take pictures? I do not want to remember how I look. I have always loved taking family pictures. Talk about wasted time and energy though. Finding the perfect family outfits, getting children dressed and hair fixed perfectly, a husband who hates having pictures made. Sounds glorious, huh? I am sure none of you have any idea what I am talking about. J
Before cancer, my outward appearance was something I struggled with; definitely an idol. More like a bottomless pit of dissatisfaction with my looks and my weight; the defeating feeling of never feeling good enough. The world tells us we should look a certain way, weigh a certain amount and wear certain clothes. If we don’t, then we feel worthless. Beauty is an idol that destroys women of all ages in today’s world.
Through this cancer journey, the Lord has taught me so much about true “beauty”. In the midst of this journey, there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think to myself how much energy I wasted before on the outward appearance. As with anything, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your outward appearance, the Lord actually calls us to care for ourselves. Our body is a temple. The problem lies when it becomes an obsession and more importance is placed on looks than a relationship with the Lord. I was definitely there before this journey began.
When I was first diagnosed, one of the things I struggled with the most was the thought of losing my hair. For me, that was such a personal struggle. Not only would it drastically change my outward appearance but I felt it would change my identity as a whole. For as long as I can remember, my identity was solely tied to what I looked like. But then again, that is what the world had told me. That is what the enemy had told me.
I can tell you there is nothing more humbling than losing your hair. Or looking into the mirror and seeing a complete stranger staring back at you. There were many days I thought I looked like I was dying. This journey has definitely given me a new perspective. I have learned several important things over the last few months.
1. Beauty is not determined by outward appearance.
3 Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. 4 You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
I know this statement seems like a bumper sticker one, but when you actually have a major change of yours, it becomes a reality. Beauty has been redefined in my eyes. Every fear I had in losing my hair has been eased. The Lord has started breaking down every stronghold the enemy was holding over me, including my obsession of how I looked. In the weeks leading up to losing my hair and even in the midst of it happening, I was devastated. I cried a lot. I didn’t want anyone to see me this way, even my family. I always had something on my hair, even in my own home. I looked like I was dying. This process was an outward reality of the inward state of my body, which was frightening. The beautiful thing about this was the Lord carried me gently through these hard days. As I focused more on Him and His word, I thought less and less about me. Now, you will never catch me with anything on my head in my house. In fact, there have been several mornings I leave to take Emma to school and I realize I didn’t put a hat on.
2. Love covers all things.
“18 Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. 19 We love each other[a] because he loved us first.” 1 John 14:18-19
One of my fears about the changes in my outward appearance was how my family would react. I was fearful that my children would be scared or hesitant to come near me. This ended up being the farthest from the truth. I involved Emma in the process of picking out a wig with me and helping to buzz cut my hair when it all began to fall out. She was amazing the entire time, very wise beyond her years. I was so amazed at how the Lord protected her tender heart. Will, my sweet little guy, he did not even notice for the longest time. They both acted as if nothing had even happened. They still loved me just the same.
One of my biggest insecurities about my outward appearance has always been how my husband sees me. The enemy has convinced me for so long that he could do so much better than me. I was so scared he wouldn’t be able to even look at me without hair. Cory was amazing. I cried some more but he was so gentle and made me feel very comfortable. Now he jokes that he can’t imagine me with hair. J This part of the journey allowed for more depth of intimacy in our marriage; the Lord opened my eyes to the truth that Cory loves me well beyond my outward appearance.
3. True joy is defined by the Lord.
“People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b
Another fear of mine leading into this journey was being in public and around others. Fearful of what others would think, fearful of making others uncomfortable and fearful of people staring.
As I mentioned earlier, the more I focused on the Lord and His word, the less I thought of myself. He equipped me to handle the battle that was before me. Quickly all of my fears were met with His love and mercy. The outpouring of love that I received from my family and friends was amazing. I have never felt so loved. It helped me to forget what I looked like. I got to the point that I actually could have cared less what I looked like. I was so thankful to be alive. My relationship with the Lord has grown and my love for Him has reached a whole new level. I have realized that life’s circumstances don’t always bring happiness, but with the Lord we can have joy in the midst of any storm. He is the only way to make that possible. In the midst of so many changes, the one I am most thankful for is the inward heart transformation. By trusting the Lord with my whole heart, He stretched me in ways I never imagined. He strengthened my faith and carried me through a storm I thought I could never survive.
The enemy would have me to believe that in my current state I am not considered beautiful by worldly standards, but the enemy can kiss it! With much hesitation, I did take a few pictures without anything on my head. I knew at some point in my life I would be thankful for these. I did want to capture a glimpse of this moment in my life …... The time when everything changed; the time in my life when the Lord became so real to me and my family. I am so very thankful to Cara for these memories. She did a great job of capturing the heart of our family. Joy, laughter, and most of all, love. We have a much deeper love for one another than we ever had before. There is joy that cannot be explained by words. My children have had the privilege of seeing faith at work. We have all had the honor of feeling the Lord move in our hearts and meeting our every need, even in the most desperate times. The last thing I want is to show this picture to the world.
Then, the Lord keeps reminding me…
It’s not about you. Tell your story. It’s for my glory, not yours. I am making all things new.
This picture shows the marvelous work of the Lord; the very miracles He alone has performed in my life. This picture is a display of the Lord’s strength in my life. Through the trials and sufferings of the past few months, I am now better and stronger. I am alive. He is making all things new. Redefining beauty in my eyes. Redefining faith in my heart. I like to look at losing my hair as an outward display of what the Lord is doing on the inside. Not as a scary thing, like when this journey started, but as an encouragement. The loss of hair is breaking the strongholds of fear, doubt and control and the new growth of new hair showing the inward growth of faith, trust and surrender. Only the Lord can turn our worst fear into our biggest victory.
Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
I will never understand why the Lord allowed this trial in my life. But, Lord, thank you for making me new. Thank you for teaching me what is truly important in your eyes. I am thankful for this journey. It is long from finished, but we are going to keep our eyes on you.
Jesus, it’s all for you.